When I was six years old, at a summer fair with my mother, I came across a table on animal rights, with photos (maybe a video playing too?) of how animals are treated and killed in slaughterhouses. I don't remember this myself, or at least I don't think I do. It feels like one of these phantom memories, lodged in your head from hearing a story so many times, you can *almost* remember it yourself... And apparently, I instantly decided I would stop eating meat. And I gave almost all meat up instantly. "Almost all" because, well, I was six, so hotdogs and McDonald's chicken mcnuggets were hard for me to give up. However, even the allure of those wore off, and by age eight I was completely vegetarian.
As you can tell, it was originally for ethical reasons. As I got older, I went through various reasons (health, ethical, environment, meat just didn't appeal to me), but whatever the reason I gave when I was asked why I was vegetarian, I have been since age eight.
I got used to all the stupid questions and comments pretty quickly, and just learned to smile vaguely and ignore anything I found insulting.
Recently though, there's been lots of talk I've seen online among more radical people: very anti-vegetarian stuff coming from anti-civ anarchists, that I honestly find slightly hurtful. I think it stems from Lierre Keith, author of The Vegetarian Myth, doing lots of talks recently, bringing up a lot of very interesting things to think about, but also making a lot of people very angry and defensive (even to the extent of harassing and harming her). But, here's the thing: I want to read her book!! I've listened to parts of her talks with interest. I want to learn more. Yet, I'm vegetarian. And I don't plan to stop being vegetarian anytime soon. The anger directed at ALL vegetarians is completely misplaced, as far as I'm concerned. Attack the vegetarians and vegans who have actually been assholes, not ALL vegetarians and vegans!
This goes against something I find very important, and try very hard to do myself, and that is to attack the ideas/beliefs/institutions, not the people. Or if I really do feel a need to condemn individuals, I make sure it's the specific individuals who I feel have done wrong, not others who simply share some of the same beliefs and ideals.
But getting back to the topic of my vegetarianism. If I believe as other anti-civers do, that agriculture (the destruction of all life on a piece of land to plant monocrops) is harmful and unsustainable, why do I have the diet I do? Well, it's been something I've been thinking about a lot lately, and I think I've come up with the basics of it. Firstly, it's both habit at this point, and something I feel good with. I don't feel a lack because I'm not eating meat. When I'm eating healthy vegetarian food I feel healthy! Secondly, if I was ever to eat meat, it would only be meat from animals I knew had been treated well and killed with respect. That's both expensive and often hard to find, unless you hunt yourself. Which brings me to another reason I don't eat meat: I have this feeling that whatever I eat should be something that I myself would be willing to harvest or kill. Pulling up a carrot is just as surely killing as shooting a deer, and I recognize that fact where I think too many others don't. But I can bring myself to kill a carrot where I can't bring myself to kill a deer, so I eat carrots where I don't eat venison. I wouldn't kill a chicken, so I don't eat chicken. My feelings may change at some point, but that's where things are right now.
I try to eat as much organic, locally grown produce as possible, both for health and sustainability reasons (really, the two are the same things! Unsustainable practices means unhealthy or dead humans.), and this year I want to grow more veggies myself. I'm also experimenting with my diet this summer, seeing how I feel cutting out virtually all grains and processed foods from my diet. But for now, meat is not going to be a part of my diet, and I'd really appreciate it if I wasn't made to feel bad about that fact!
P.S. I want to make sure, because I'm not sure how what I said about others views on eating meat came across, that all the anti-civers I've ever met (online and in real life) are strongly against factory farming and animal abuse. Most just see eating meat, that's either hunted or raised kindly, as part of a sustainable diet.