I’m a vegetarian—not because I love animals but because I hate plants.
I’m not actually a vegetarian.
I’m paraphrasing a joke by A. Whitney Brown that’s funny to me…until I think about the fact that I’m quite fond of animals and plants: Living animals and plants—as well as those that are classified as food to me that I eat to service my culinary needs.
Yeah, I’m the sort of monster that is conflicted about my eating choices but continues to consume food out of habit and tradition. I eat meat because it’s available and I eat vegetables when it’s convenient.
Oh, I’ve flirted with vegetarianism over the years but I’ve never committed. I once believed it was a weakness of the will but I realize now it’s always been my refusal to be an accomplice to killing breakfast.
What would become of me without eggs cooked in a pan with real butter? Or cream cheese and lox for my bagels? And yes, oh yes—the absolute necessity of half and half for my coffee.
There’s some denial (it’s the coffee that needs the half and half, not me) that leads to feeling justified in having exceptions and compelling reasons for them.
Which brings me finally to bacon—the crack cocaine of thinly sliced animal flesh.
Recently, I sniffed the air and caught a whiff of bacon in the air and my first thought after the immediate Pavlovian salivation response was to wonder if somewhere nearby a vegan was fuming because they smelled animal flesh cooking.
My vegan friend, Laurel, replies to that thought.
“We don’t fume because bacon is eaten,” she tells me, “We fume because animal agriculture is taking us all down. We don’t realize that we have fucked ourselves out of the privilege of eating other sentient beings.
“With that said,” she muses. “Some fume. Some just have a moment of reflection and a reminder of what we give up in the name of saving a shred of anything beautiful here.”
Jeanie’s biological dad was a butcher by trade and she was raised with the belief that she hadn’t eaten a meal if meat wasn’t a part of it. Jeanie and her husband, Joel, live in a small Midwestern town with limited dining options. Then, a terrible thing happened a few years ago that convinced her to consider a plant-based lifestyle.
In August 2015, Jeanie’s father-in-law had a fatal stroke.
“Joel’s dad was a fantastic guy, a larger than life personality, and loved by all. We watched him die and it tore me up. Plus, I work for a dialysis company and see really sick people every day.”
Watching Joel’s father die “really made me think about myself and my own health.” Jeanie felt like she owed her family more. “The thought of my kids watching me like that got me. If a stroke or cancer can be prevented I needed to do whatever I could to be healthy.”
So, she made the decision to be healthier, lose weight, and exercise more. Looking into healthy recipes, Jeanie learned about meatless Mondays, which led to the discovery of Forks over Knives—a 2011 documentary film that advocates a low-fat, whole-food, plant-based diet as a way to avoid or reverse several chronic diseases.
“The transition was easy for me,” Jeanie says. “I was repulsed by the thought of an animal dying for me. I don’t believe there’s a humane way to kill an animal—they feel pain and they feel fear.”
Jeanie has been vegan for nearly two years now and chose the lifestyle because of the environmental impact, health benefits, and because she cannot abide cruelty of any kind.
When the subject of the aroma of roasting flesh in the air comes up she says, “I hate to admit this, but yes, the smell of meat bothers me; frankly it smells like shit, literally it smells like feces to me. If you’re a non-smoker and the smell of smoke bothers you, it’s similar.”
“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” ~Dr. Hannibal Lecter
The fictional character of Hannibal Lecter, portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in the film The Silence of the Lambs, is an iconic American cultural figure.
Lecter, a serial killer with highbrow cannibalistic proclivities, is described as a monster and a pure psychopath. He’s a man who prepares gourmet meals from the flesh of his victims; so it may seem strange that I’ve included him in this essay.
But, it’s not strange at all when you’re a hardcore vegan like my friend, Sean, who says he doesn’t have the energy to speak deeply with people that say they like animals about how he feels about the subject of eating animals “when they continue to perpetuate their murder for zero reason other than their personal pleasure.”
Sean has discussed the ethical reasons for not eating animals with his carnivorous friends so often he’s given up trying to convince them that they’re basically accomplices to murder when they eat animals slaughtered for food.
Sean admits that it’s painful for him to do so because there are many people he likes in spite of them being accomplices to murder.
“It widens the gap I have between my meat eating friends,” he says about talking with them about it, “to the point where it makes me question how I could continue those friendships.”
Sean has made a conscious decision to be part of society and live among meat eaters when doing so breaks his heart every day.
And, if it seems extreme that Sean seriously contemplates ending friendships with people based on what some consider to be a dietary habit you have to realize that in Sean’s estimation meat eaters are basically serial killers.
“They’re on the same ethical playing field as Jeffrey Dahmer,” he says.
Imagine gazing at the majority of the human population, your own species, and regarding them as a cannibalistic mob of Jeffrey Dahmers and wine swilling Hannibal Lecters—leering back at you.
To be continued…