On Being Vegetarian In America

Most of my posts as of late have been very gender/sex oriented, and the next 3 will be as well. So this week, I’m going to mix it up, take a break from the gender-talk, and write about something else that’s close to my heart…Namely, the things people say to vegetarians in America. Enjoy!

I have been an ovo-lacto vegetarian since I turned 13 (so 16 years to date). This was the semi-magical age in my parent’s household where you were expected to do your own laundry, start looking for a neighborhood job, start cooking your own meals, and take on more responsibilities and chores overall.

In exchange, you got to make more life choices for yourself…like deciding to drastically alter your diet. Of course, this still meant a talk with my doctor, research into healthy options, and numerous assurances that I was not just trying to become anorexic. But eventually I successfully cut all meat from my diet, and found non-factory farm shops for my dairy/egg needs. It was actually pretty easy to do…ever since the 7 year old me had truly grasped the fact I was eating someone else’s flesh and blood, I’d been grossed out by my parent’s cooking on an intellectual level. (Of course, biologically my mouth *still* waters when I smell roasted chicken or filet mignon, even today.)

Little did I know that so very many people would have qualms with such a life choice! Some things that have happened/I’ve been told since changing my diet:

Being vegetarian is unAmerican.

What the hell does this even mean? America, supposedly the “great melting pot” can’t handle people that don’t eat other animals? I’m fairly confident that my level of patriotism has nothing to do with steak or lobster.

You can’t be a vegetarian, you’re not sickly looking!

Sorry to disappoint, but most vegetarians aren’t “sickly looking”. If you meet one who is, they may have other issues, they could actually just have a cold/flu, or they may be doing their diet wrong. If you know what you’re doing, you’ll be healthy.

You can only be vegetarian because you’re a woman…men cannot be vegetarian.

Au contraire! Men can be vegetarian (or vegan, for that matter) if they wish. In fact, there are many Olympic athletes who are/were vegan or vegetarian. See a small list here: http://www.ecorazzi.com/2012/07/27/top-10-historic-vegetarian-and-vegan-olympians/

Now, it is true that tofu/soybeans contain estrogen-like complexes, so male vegetarians can have slight breast growth if they eat too much of it. But while tofu and other soy-based meat alternatives ARE tasty…nobody should eat that much of them. With so many foods open to you, why eat soy all the time?

You still eat eggs? Those are baby chickens!

Yeah…no. Although turkeys have asexual/virgin birth capabilities (also called parthenogenesis), chickens do not. I get my eggs from family farms (and from a chicken I owned for 3 years) and they specifically don’t keep roosters around, so none of the eggs are fertilized. Saying that eating a non-fertilized egg is eating meat is akin to saying a human woman kills a baby whenever she has her period. It’s just idiotic.

But how do you get protein?!

Oh please, people. With all the information out there, why still ask this question? Yes, certain types of protein are harder to get and require us veg-heads to eat foods together. But I still eat kosher cheeses, drink family farm milk, eat cage-free eggs, and there are SO MANY plant-based foods with the proper nutrients. Once you do your research, it’s actually incredibly simple to work out a meal plan with good amounts of all vitamins/minerals.

If you love animals so much, why are you eating all their food?

Really? So eating them is better? Not to mention that the corn/grains fed to our meat animals is not the same as what we eat…This isn’t even an argument, it’s just stupid.

Your religion/beliefs are dumb if they include dietary restrictions.

So you make fun of Jews and Muslims for not eating pork? You criticize Jainists for being vegan? You mock Catholics for eating fish on Fridays? You laugh at Wiccans who choose to be vegetarian? You scoff at atheists who dislike factory-farming? Well, at least you’re an equal opportunity offender…

Vegetarians are all hippies!

I’ll admit that *some* of us are hippies. However, most of us are not, and a good number of us are conservatives rather than liberals. I don’t want to bring politics into this, but vegetarians come from ALL demographics.

So, you still eat fish and seafood, right?

No. What part of ovo-lacto vegetarian don’t you understand? It means I will eat dairy and eggs along with my fruits, grains, veggies, and sweets. No lobster, no fish, no oysters, no shrimp, no octopus, etc. If it’s an animal, I don’t want it on my plate.

You know, it upsets me that you won’t at least *try* this steak. It’s really good!

I’m quite sure it is. In fact, it smells good from here! But it upsets me that you keep trying to push pieces of it onto my plate, not to mention it makes you seem immature. If it doesn’t upset me to have you eat a steak, why does it upset you that I’m not?

You just want to feel superior to others.

Nope. I don’t for one second believe I’m superior than omnivores. I simply practice a diet that goes along with my personal religious beliefs and philosophy. I also don’t wear fur or leather, is this “bad” now too?

I also understand that there are people who physically cannot be vegetarian, or who simply don’t wish to be. They’re just as worthy of common courtesy and respect as myself. I’ve found that doing something just to feel “superior” makes one into an asshole…how is that better? Answer: It isn’t.

So, what does everyone think? Do you know any vegetarians? Are you one yourself? What conversations have you had about this topic, and what other odd things have you heard about this dietary choice?

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27 thoughts on “On Being Vegetarian In America

  1. “Humans evolved to eat meat, it’s what our bodies are adapted for and we function best with it in out diet.”

    That’s probably the most common anti-vegetarian sentiment I’ve come across, although I’ve heard most of the others. Personally I enjoy meat too much to cut it out, even though I wish farmed animals were treated better.

    I notice you don’t go into much detail about why you are vegetarian in your post. I’m guessing animal welfare is a large part of it? In which case how do you feel about people eating animals that have been raised/killed humanely, or even wild animals people have hunted?

  2. @Dave

    Hello there! Yes, I’m doing well, though busy with a new store and a 45 minute to and from drive 6 days a week, lol. My younger brother just came back from his 7 months in Afghanistan too, and he’ll be here for Thanksgiving…that’s something! I hope you and yours are doing better as well?

    So, if you were vegetarian for 8 years, what made you decide to go omnivore again? Medical reasons, or it just wasn’t for you?

  3. @lolenjoy

    Animal welfare is a large part of it, yes. Not just for the non-human animals who live in deplorable conditions, but for us too. The antibiotics and growth hormones that factory-farmed animals are given stay in their flesh…and when that flesh is consumed, it takes it’s toll on our bodies as well. We “wonder” why certain strains of viruses are no longer easily treatable and why children are hitting puberty faster? Look to the prevalence of meat in the Western diet.

    I’ll agree that humans, like most primates, have evolved to be omnivores. Yet if you look at wild gorillas, chimps, and bonobos, you’ll find that meat like small rodents/birds is a *very* small part of their diet. They live on vegetables, fruits, and insects (which are almost pure protein). Again, I’m not denying that our bodies *can* process meat…I’m arguing that the levels of it a typical American/Canadian/European consumes is unhealthy.

    I’m fine with people eating humanely raised/killed creatures, and with eating their kill when they go hunting (I find it disgusting when people take lives “just for the fun of it”). I cannot and would not stop others from eating meat, so I’d prefer if it was done less AND more humanely.

    I personally make few distinctions between human animals and non-human animals…yes, we are more complex and the most intellectual, but I don’t think that arbitrarily makes us “better”. (No, I’m not a hippie who thinks we’re exactly the same.) I also believe that all sentient creatures have immortal souls, and in cross-species reincarnation…so it’s entirely possible that while I’m a female human in this life, I’ll be a male human/dog/giraffe/trout in my next one.

    I guess it just feels wrong for me to kill another being for food when there’s no reason for me to. It’s illogical, and has a painful effect on someone other than myself. So why do it?

  4. I was a vegan for ten years (from age 16 to 26). I thought I was healthy, but the day I started eating meat again I noticed an amazing difference in the way I felt (mood, energy, everything). Female friend of my husband from high school said the same thing…she was a vegan for 15 years.

  5. @Liz

    I tried being vegan for about 1 year (age 17-18)…ended up feeling pretty lethargic the whole time. Even right after I had big, otherwise nutritious meal! Thus, I just went back to being an ovo-lacto vegetarian…and within a week, felt 100x better. πŸ™‚

  6. Yeah, I think ovo-lacto is far healthier.
    I was really careful and tried to get everything…but still, there must have been something missing.

  7. True, but I think you mean we are all omnivores. Carnivores can live solely on meats, herbivores can live solely on plants, omnivores usually eat both. πŸ˜‰

  8. Once upon a time my coworkers thought that it was cute to accuse me of being gay for not eating meat. That is until I pointed out that straight men who attend sports games and eat hotdogs are simply expressing their inner gay man by watching other men feel each other up while playing with their balls and eating food in the shape of the male sexual organ. πŸ™‚

  9. Lol. Hopefully that shut them up!

    I didn’t know you were a vegetarian, Poet. What type are you? Ovo-lacto like me, or maybe a pesco?

    Btw, nice to hear from you again.

  10. πŸ™‚ LOL They don’t bother me like they used too…Ovo-lacto. Though I’m in the process of gradually removing eggs and milk from my diet and will eventually end up being vegan.

  11. That’s cool, though a little more diet work than I’m willing to put in. To combat the factory-farming horribleness of typical milk/eggs, I take a biweekly trip to a family run farm that is about 1 hr from my home. The animals there are still used for food (eventually) but at least they have good food, fresh air, sunlight, and aren’t abused at all…which is what I’m trying to avoid in the first place.

  12. Cool Beans!

    My problem is that I’m highly allergic to milk and eggs and get sick nearly every time I eat them which ends up turning into bronchitis.

  13. Geez, that is terrible! Sounds like lactose intolerance + an allergy to the albumin in eggs. I had a “cousin” who had the same issue, and that’s what his doctor said.

  14. I also believe that all sentient creatures have immortal souls [snip]

    Where do you draw the line between sentient and non-sentient creatures?

  15. Sentient, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “responsive to or conscious of sense impressions” and “able to feel, see, hear, smell, and/or taste”. While I accept these definitions, I basically just ask myself “Can this being experience pain and pleasure/ distress and eustess of any type?”

    If it can, then I don’t eat it.

  16. Yes, I know. But bacteria and other similar organisms don’t have a CNS, or any real way of feeling what we would call “pain”. Even a creature as simple as a tadpole or lobster will struggle to get out of a vice or boiling water…I wish I could survive without killing *anything*, but if the choice is between animals and plants/fungus…I’m going to forego the animals.

  17. Quite a lot of phytoplancton would attempt to get out of hot water as well, So, apparently, it seems more about having a functional muscle tissue or other means of active locomotion…

    As for me, I see living as inseparable from causing death, generally. It’s a matter of priorities. Whose time of living one values more, whose less. And no living being is immortal in practice.

  18. Honestly? Probably relocate the farmer families. This mautam occurrence happens every 48 years, like clockwork…the bamboo flowers, the stink bugs arrive, the rats reproduce exponentially. Unless the farmers were the ones to plant the bamboo forest (which it doesn’t sound like), this is something that has most likely always happened…perhaps for a good reason. While I grieve for their families and their difficulty in finding food after these “attacks” I believe that further unbiased research would probably show that more harm would be done if this isn’t allowed to go on than if scientists found some way to stop it. Relocation would be difficult, but better for everyone concerned in the long run.

    What does this have to do with vegetarianism though?

  19. How would you characterize that “immortal soul” beyond being immortal? What remains immutable between two consecutive incarnations, for example?

    Being a vegetarian does not cause less indirect deaths, at least numerically, than practicing omnivory. Did you spare a thought on all pests that are being killed in the process of growing vegetarian food? Pesticides, mechanical damage and “exposure to elements” by farm machinery used in modern agriculture – all of these garner their own death toll.

    “Eco” farming is not much better – it employs allelopathy (silent “chemical warfare” between plants), various biochemical compounds produced as plant defense against herbivory, and natural “enemies” of pests like insectivores and parasites in order to protect crops.

    Gnostic? Why? If I have to label myself, I am an apatheist atheist. A monist – you could guess which flavour…

    About your “solution” to the rat invasion: is it practical at all? How many people forced out of their homes? What about logistics – means of transport, places to sleep, food and water? What about costs? Would you propose relocation in the case of locust swarms as well?

  20. I’ve thought of everything you mention, and have no concrete answers for you other than the fact that I try to take part in as little suffering as I can. There is no way to avoid it all, but one should still try if one is able.

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