Of the 32 years I’ve been alive, I’ve now lived more than half my life as a vegetarian. Similarly I’ve opted to not learn to drive a car for just about as long. Two immediate questions are “How do I feel?” and “What happened when you were 15?” lol.
The first is obviously complicated. I feel good that I’ve stuck with something for half my life. I feel bad that my ideology is not strong enough to participate piecewise or situationally. My ethics aren’t particularly robust in a complicated and changing world, and that feels like a failing. On the other hand, there is something I’ve dedicated my life to, and reconsidered and adapted over time.
The line I always use is that “No one should become vegetarian, but everyone should eat less meat. We’d be better off if 90% of people reduced, than if 10% became full vegetarian or vegan.” My general philosophy on this has been to put myself on the extrema to both lead by example and test my commitment to the issue. Without a proper example, nothing is really learnable (without experience). [this needs a rewrite] I’ve caused a decrease outside my own diet to the ones around me. It helps that the people around me are curious eaters and willing to forgo meat for a meal or two. For the longest time I wouldn’t even buy it (except for paying for friends food when we went out). I’ve changed my opinion on that recently and I’m not quite sure why. (There are a dozen pork dumplings in my freezer that I haven’t given away).
I wouldn’t say that I feel closer to animals because I don’t eat them. On the contrary, due to the obligate carnivorism of cats, I would say at times I feel more distant not having the hunting urge. Also it seems cats play hunt each other and that feels very similar to (consensual) sport. My eyes look forward and I have incisors 🐅 after all.
I also feel a sense of betrayal to my food cultures, abandoning the ways of old and cultures. Respect and ritual for the animals we honor through sharing their flesh. It’s one of the few things that makes my grandma and grandpa pop into my head and just ask “We worked so hard for you, why ignore this blessing?” My grandma tried animal broth a few times but learned surprisingly quickly that I didn’t eat animals.
But if we’re not looking at the world in different ways, what are we even doing?
So I develop a taste for all the ways you can eat soybeans and lentils and peanut butter. God how did they live without peanut butter?!
As a bit, I separate myself from vegetables as much as people separate themselves from animals. There’s a Portlandia sketch about knowing the name of the animal you eat.
It does feel weird to not have to tell people anymore. Because sometimes you forget it’s the first meal you’ve shared with someone! Butter and pork and pepperoni have a different taste. Again, we learn a taste for buckwheat and rice flour, for cashew milks and figs that didn’t have wasps die for them.
The world is prepared to let you drive to sacrifice animals to the altar of self indulgence 🙃. But each time feels different. And I think I like that. It reminds me that the world I share is not static or full or dieing. It reminds me that the intricacies of eating urchin or horse meat might have net positive environmental outcomes for some microecologies. That farm equipment weighs more than the largest dinosaurs did, and that means the earth has never felt something crawl on its face like that’s before. [take more time with this]
And if the earth can learn something about being alive, I certainly can take a moment to consider it.