Friday, April 2, 2010

Vegetarianism

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!

Peace,
Idzie 

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.

20 comments:

  1. Factory farming is loathsome, whether it's pigs or chickens or strawberries or soybeans. It's a scourge and we need to stop doing it.

    People can get really militant about food and food issues. Personally, I think it's important to eat mindfully and with gratitude and joy and respect and appreciation, whatever those words might mean to the individual. Beyond that, pick your path. Just mho.

    btw, I have a copy of Lierre Kieth's book that I can send you, if you'd like to read it. Consider it a late birthday present. I think I still have your address. xox.

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  2. Well said! I am vegan and feel the same way you do about meat, i.e. can't kill it so I I won't eat it (what right do i have to take another sentient life, when I can sustain myself well without?). I'm of the mind that you can attract more bees with honey, if you know what I mean. Verbal 'violence' only ever creates distance, and prevents any type of discussion, which is always unfortunate!

    p.s. I am currently reading Eating animals http://www.eatinganimals.com/ and it is giving me even more insight into reasons for eating mindfully (sorry, i'm stealing ps pirro's word!)

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  3. Oops! Sorry about the above.

    I think respectful killing is an oxymoron. In my experience, respect needs to involve recognition of the respected as a an aware individual--otherwise there’s no one to respect. When one kills someone, one is effectively saying that you don’t see that being as an sentient individual (if this is you, I‘d be more than happy to provide you with sound scientific research demonstrating the awareness of non-humans. After all, most of the creatures we exploit do have limbic systems.), or that you simply don’t care. Sentient individuals have interests. In the vast majority of cases, one of those interests is staying alive.

    At least in economically prosperous countries, meat (and milk, and eggs, and wool, and…) is unnecessary for human survival. All justifications for consuming it come down to preference. A pretty poor reason when it’s chosen at the expense of someone else’s life, freedom, and/or bodily integrity, I think.


    Yes, pulling up a carrot does kill it. But I haven’t come across any reputable evidence indicating that a carrot has awareness of, well, anything. So unlike a deer, I can’t see how it could have any personal interest in staying alive.
    Even if you personally don’t believe there’s a meaningful difference between a carrot and a deer, choosing to eat carrots will ultimately cause less death. The deer has to eat something, and if you eat the deer, you’re consuming all of those carrots the deer ate too.


    For the record, I’m an ethical vegan who hopes none of this came off as a personal attack. :)

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  4. I had a friend once who was very into the primal lifestyle, anti-civilization, pro-meat eating, pro-hunting.
    Sometimes his casual attitude towards killing and destruction bothered me. I honestly feel like it's a cult, because the pro-animal killing in addition to the aggressive anti-civ ideals lead to some almost violent conclusions. Listening to him talk honestly scared me sometimes.
    I'm sure there are more balanced people out there, but I don't like the extremes the primal lifestyle can lead to.

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  5. Great post. Funny, I just wrote one about my own daughter's vegetarian diet. I agree with above post that respectful killing is completely insane...come on, if some one came up to you and said I'm gonna kill you and eat you but I really respect you would it be ok with you?
    Yep, you're right, it's a contentious issue! lol.
    I love your blog, keep it please...

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  6. Wow, this issue really seems to strike a nerve with a lot of people!!

    @ps pirro: Okay, firstly, I LOVE your comment!! I agree completely with everything you said. You basically condensed my feelings on the matter into a few short sentences that express things perfectly. :-)

    Thank you so much for the book offer!! ♥ Can you give me your PayPal info though, so I can pay the shipping? It would make me happy to do that!

    @Gen: Thanks for your comment!! Yeah, aggressiveness closes down conversations very quickly, which I think is a real shame. There are so many things that desperately need to be talked about, in an open-minded, respectful, solution-finding way!

    @Fog-Struck: Thanks for your comment!! I'm afraid I totally disagree. Not that animals aren't sentient beings: they are (and I've yet to find an anti-civer who would say otherwise!). But I find it a rather arrogant view that no one should eat meat: that we're better than just animals who eat others animals. It seems almost to be a thing of *purity* among some vegans... My problem is then, if you recognize that other animals are sentient beings, the same as we are, are the carnivores and predators somehow less *pure* than the herbivorous creatures? We're animals, and we're omnivorous. I don't think killing for sustenance is wrong. I do think torturing (aka factory farming) is despicable. When I say respect in killing, I mean how many First Nations people viewed (and in cases where their cultures still survive, view) killing to live. They honored the animals they killed, sometimes saying prayers, or speaking to the soul of the animal, realizing that they were taking another life so that they could live. That's not wrong, that's natural. And to say people are bad if they do that seems disrespectful to the whole natural world, the way nature works. In our culture, where meat is treated as just lumps of food, not THAT I consider disrespectful: not recognizing and respecting the life that was lost to feed you. Just my opinions on it.

    Actually, there is some interesting research out there on how plants communicate and protect themselves from predators... If I could find the links I'd send them to you, but I'm afraid I've lost them!

    And no, your comment didn't come off as a personal attack. I just think we have VERY different opinions! :-)

    @Bethany: Yikes! Well, I haven't talked to you much about my opinions, they might bother/worry you as much as your friends... :-S

    I hate it when people are casual about the taking of life. But I've seen that attitude most often from the meat-eating mainstream! I've never seen/heard it from anti-civers, myself. The ones I've come across, both online and in real life, have been largely extremely respectful, kind, caring people. I totally disagree that "anti-civ ideals" are violent. I've been called extreme before, so I'm kind of wary of that word. To many people, my views ARE extreme! To me, my views are the sanest things I've come across in my life, and my anti-civ ideals the things that are most likely to lead me through a good and sustainable as possible life. I find it slightly insulting you consider it a cult. I don't know about that, but I do know it makes me so happy being around and talking to other anti-civers. Talking to someone who actually *gets* your views on the world can be so important! I don't think that's cultish though, I just think that's finding support. The same way you'd go to an unschooling conference to hang out with like-minded folk!

    @Ven. Yeshe: Thanks, I'm glad you like my blog! :-) See my above response to Fog-struck for my elaboration on respect.

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  7. @Idzie
    Sorry, I didn't mean to offend you. I wasn't trying to imply that all anti-civ people are cultish (Although, looking back at how I worded that, I can see how it could easily be taken that way). It was this guy's specific narrow-mindedness that seemed unhealthy. He wasted so much time trying to convince me to eat meat. He would make off-hand casual comments about wanting to kill people in authority... He was absolutely nuts.
    Like I said before, I'm sure there's more balanced people out there but that's my experience with a hard-core primal lifestyle person.
    I also wasn't trying to imply that anti-civ people shouldn't network or that their ideas are less valid than mine. I just personally have reservations about casualty towards violence (Which, as you've pointed out- a lot of anti-civ people don't share that ideal) and trying to demolish society when other people want it to be there.

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  8. I don’t believe I said that human vegans are better than animals who need to eat other animals in order to survive. We’re not. We (in the developed world, at least) have the luxury of making this moral choice. It’s a privilege. In the same way that being able to unschool is a privilege.
    Because I made a commitment to her as an individual, I provide my cat with animal products. Her acceptance is not immoral. She’s doing what she needs to in order to survive.
    I take medicines that I’m almost positive contains animal products, and were undoubtedly tested on animals. I do my best to find alternatives, but when my choice is between taking the meds or being in horrible pain, never sleeping, and possibly becoming suicidal, I choose the meds. I don’t believe this makes me any less moral than a vegan without any serious health issues.
    (Yes, I do still see myself as vegan. It’s impossible to live in modern society and not make use of things that contain animal products. Maybe one day I’ll be able to go live in a vegan intentional community, but unfortunately, that’s not a viable option for me at the moment. The point is to do your absolute best to avoid animal products given the knowledge available to you and your true needs, not wants.)

    Humans can consume both animal and plant products, true, but we don’t *need* any animal products in order to survive or be healthy (again, happy to provide reputable evidence). If you’re going to make the “it’s natural” argument, then you better be able to do all of your hunting naked with your bare hands, and then eat the creature raw. This might work on insects (who arguably aren‘t sentient), but deer? Not so much. We make rather poor predators, what with our lack of innate weapons or defenses and our teeth and digestive systems that resemble herbivores‘. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

    I really can’t express how insulting I find the assertion that saying a prayer makes any damn difference to the animal that was just killed. Prayers only have meaning within certain human cultures. I also think that the appropriation of Native American cultures by those of European ones is problematic at best.


    If you can find those links, I’d love to see them!

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  9. @Bethany: I think I probably took your words the wrong way, I'm sorry for that!! I definitely understand being bothered by that: I HATE when people try and convince me to eat meat. Share why you choose to, fine. Tell me I *should*, not so fine! The society thing, well, it's more accurately "civilization" than society, and then you get the whole thing where is it right to have a civilization that's destroying the earth, just because people like having their cars and gadgets? But anyway, I get what you mean, and I'm sorry I reacted badly to your comment! :-(

    @Fog-struck: NOW I feel like you're attacking me. And honestly, I have no interest in having conversations that I don't feel are respectful.

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  10. I'm sorry. That wasn't my intention (as you said it's a very divisive issue, one that is near and dear to my heart). Would you like me to take my comment down?

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  11. @Fog-struck: I understand. It's hard not to get heated when it's an issue close to your heart! I just really get stressed in debates, and this seems to be more of a moral/spiritual thing than anything else, that we both just feel very differently on! You can leave your comment or take it down, I'm honestly fine with either.

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  12. I know the feeling! I'm physically shaking.

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  13. I'm sorry to hear that! :-( I was just saying somewhere else how much easier it would be if I had nice, non-contentious, middle of the road opinions. As it is, I'm naturally a people pleaser and pretty sensitive person, so having the opinions I do can be pretty hard! Definitely know the feeling.

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  14. Well, you can eat McDonald's chicken nuggets because they're not made of chicken. In fact, most chicken nuggets aren't even made of real meat but something else packed with rubbish to flavour them.

    Myself, I am an Omnivore. I like my greens and I like my meat.

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  15. I once said to someone on the matter of eating particular food groups; "When I look into a cow's eyes, I want to give it a hug. When see a cow from behind, I want to take out my knife and fork".

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  16. @Idzie- I get what you're saying, but I personally thing that civilization could be reformed to treat the planet more kindly. A lot of people rely on technology to stay alive (People with genetic defects, people born without limbs, people who need pace makers), so I don't necessarily think that all technology is bad. I understand what you are saying, though, too.

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  17. I'm just curious - why are you going to cut out grains?

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  18. Idzie, thank you for all your writing.

    Both my daughters are unschooled and have become vegetarians, almost vegans, for about a year. I've been an off again/on again vegetarian for nearly 20 years. We constantly get questions from the "mainstream" about both our education style and our eating practices. Generally if someone is truly interested, we have a nice conversation. Otherwise, I strike a deal with them; If they don't question my choices, I won't question their choices to send their children to school or what they eat. It's a mutual respect thing. We should not have to justify our decisions to anyone but those who are affected.

    Thanks again for writing! You are an inspiration to many unschoolers and vegetarians! AND yes, you can write! :D

    -Cardella

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  19. I myself have been trying out new ideas for vegetarian cooking and enjoying it a lot. I got American Wholefood Cuisine from the library - it's a great recipe book! Anyway, I was just curious why you are going to try cutting out grains. It's just an honest question on my part - what's the significance of grains?

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  20. @Marilou & Danna: In answer to *why* I'm cutting out grains... I've been doing some interesting reading, about how humans didn't evolve to eat grains, and how health went down with the agricultural revolution, when grains became a staple in peoples diets. I've also been reading/watching some stuff against "totalitarian agriculture", the whole monocrop thing, that's made up of LOTS of grain crops, and similar things... So seeing as I'm fascinated (and totally love) food, and eating healthy, and different ways of eating, I just decided I wanted to eat considerably less grains and see how I feel on that type of diet... :-)

    @Cardella: I totally agree about the mutual respect thing! Sounds like how I handle things like that. And thank you so much for your kind words! I really appreciate them. :-)

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