Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I am what I eat. Now Shut Up!

I'm not normally one to preach or lecture people about my beliefs or politics. I may offer an opinion on some matters, especially after a cocktail or two but I don't usually tell people what to do. Especially when it comes to being a vegetarian. But right now I am going to take the opportunity to rant a little.

I'm going to stop right here and say that if you are a passionate meat eater you may not want to read this because you will most likely find some of it offensive or upsetting.

It always happens when a vegetarian or two find themselves out to dinner with a new group of people who don't happen to be vegetarian; comments are made, excuses are given, justifications are proclaimed and general mockery and bafoonery ensues. The vegetarians typically don't stand up at the table and announce their dietary choice nor do they offer criticism or judgement on the meat eaters, but for some reason the meat eaters feel it necessary to take up their side of the debate.

Here's the thing: there is no meat eater's side of the debate. (I'm sorry, I did suggest that the meat eaters skip this post.) The production, processing and consumption of meat is not good for the environment or the people who consume it. It just isn't. I've heard all the stories; the blood type explanation, the lack of protein from non-meat sources... I was even told by a veterinarian once that human being simply can not live for more than a few months without meat. At the time I had been vegan for over a year and vegetarian for over ten years. It didn't matter to him, he was convinced of his argument and suggested that I had been eating meat regularly without knowing it.

Then there was the seemingly nice man whom I helped with his damaged bicycle. he was new inn Brooklyn so I invited him to join us for dinner with some other friends. As soon as he heard I was a vegetarian he turned to me and said (with a glare in his eyes) "I suppose you think you're better than me!" With that he stormed off and was never heard from again.

True story.

Or there was the idiot who loudly exclaimed, not that any of us were talking to him, "I didn't fight my way to the top of the food chain to live on nuts and berries!" Most of the vegetarians at the table had ordered either the roast eggplant ravioli or a large plate of grilled vegetables with all sorts of sides, all ample servings far more filling than his puny steak. The irony was lost on him. And exactly what fighting did he do to get to the top? I have no idea.

I really have heard it all, and so have most vegetarians and most of us didn't ask. For some reason it is felt by meat eaters that the lifestyle and diet of a vegetarian is open target for judgement and commentary.

So now I'll do a little commentary.

"The Meat's Carbon Hoofprint Report", compiled by Adelaide experts compared the green house gas emissions of cattle and vehicles and found that beef was almost four times as damaging to the atmosphere. The comparison was based on a family of four eating about 8 1/2 pounds of meat a week and driving a typical two ton truck (or SUV) 125 miles a week.

Now you may think that 8 1/2 pounds of meat a week sounds like a lot, but it averages out to just over 2 pounds per person per week. Accoring to a UNC study, the typical serving of meat (ranging from a couple strips of bacon at breakfast to a steak of pork chop for dinner) is about a quarter of a pound. That works out to roughly five servings of meat a week.

Taking that argument one step further is the article that circled FaceBook ever so briefly entitle "Vegan in SUV vs. Carnivore Cyclist". You can read it if you want, I'll just say that the article suggest no one needs to go out and buy a bicycle.

According to Environmental Defense, if everyone in America skipped one meal of meat per week and had a vegetarian meal instead the carbon dioxide reduction would be the equivalent of taking more than a half-million cars off the roads. Even if that's an exaggeration it still says something.

The University of Chicago released a report that says going vegetarian is 50% more effective than switching to a hybrid car at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course now a bunch of meat eaters are all thinking about the burning of the rain forests in South America to clear land to grow soy. I hate to tell you this, but the vast majority of that soy is headed to become cattle feed along with over half of the fish caught in our oceans every year. Then I'll put forward the thought that we wouldn't need to find new farmland for crops if the cows weren't living on so much of it to begin with.

What about the run off of all the chemical fertilizers and pesticides? Well, most vegetarians prefer organic anyway. I even encourage shopping at your local farmer's market as many meat eaters also do. And again, a significant portion of the run off comes from growing feed for the cattle and chickens.

I could go on, but I'm done with that. I assume that most of the meat eaters already know all of this anyway and I really don't expect to change any minds here about eating meat. What I do want is to be left alone about my choice. I honestly don't understand the compulsion that meat eaters have to defend their choice while mocking mine whenever they encounter me.

Are they feeling guilty?

Are the threatened? ... offended? ... disgusted? What is it?

What ever it is, give it a rest!

Sure, I think you should eat less meat. A lot less meat. But I'm not bringing it up. If you ask, I'll talk about it but if you just want to defend yourself keep it to yourself. I'm not interested in hearing about it.

This is not about having dinner with friends who joke about offering me a taste of their steak and then quipping "Oh right! You can't eat this!" Not that it's very funny, but it's far from offensive. This is for all the loud mouthed, self aggrandized idiots who feel it in some way enhances their personality and standing in the world to belittle the vegetarians who are trying in some small way to make a difference. I'll keep smiling and nodding and laughing at your stupid jabs because inside I know which one of us is headed for an appointment with six feet of pipe and a proctologist.

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