Reflections on a life with vegetables

Karl Sadkowski/Opinion Editor

On many an occasion has someone taunted me by holding a chicken leg four inches from my face and eating it, reveling in its succulent magnificence. I am a vegetarian, and proud of it, and won’t give in to putting the dead flesh of some animal in my mouth. I continually disappoint that someone with my obstinacy.

My transition to a meatless diet came quite painlessly, actually. I stood in my kitchen watching my mother prepare meatballs and thought, “Hang on. First a cow was slaughtered, then cleaned and its meat ground into one unintelligible mass. This unintelligible mass went to a supermarket, where a deli employee intermittently grabbed chunks of it and placed it on a scale to sell off. Then, when my mom brought one chunk home, she pulled it apart into even smaller pieces and rolled them into balls — balls of meat, completely defiling the dignity of the cow whose body was sacrificed for our consumption.” Standing next to my mother I thought again, “Those balls of meat will be fried into little brown objects that give no resemblance to the once-living animal they composed and, to make that point even more clear, will go cold unless heated properly by an external source. I doubt that cow knew about, or gave consent to, facing such shameful mutilation.” Reflecting on this experience, I now know that those meatballs didn’t only contain the meat of one cow; that unintelligible mass sold by the deli employee probably contained the meat of several, all mashed together into one irresistible combination.

So indeed, my transition to vegetarianism did come without drooling at the sight of some untouchable piece of meat. My thoughts of meat disgusted me so much I simply stopped eating meat by preference (this did not please my mother). I suppose its hideous notion just got to me after a while.

The scrutiny many vegetarians receive for their eating choices really does deserve more scrutiny itself. I’m not just talking about the meat-toting barbarians who wave chicken legs in our faces; more broadly, I’m talking about the barbarians who feel sorry for us, as if vegetarianism were a terminal disease that develops without warning or mercy.

It surprises me that so many people marvel at vegetarians, commenting on how “meat is just too delicious to give up” and “you’ll fall ill from not getting your daily serving of meat.”

But a meat-free lifestyle really does offer an excellent choice of eating options and can be just as nutritious as the alternative, all if you know what you’re doing. Don’t dupe yourself into thinking vegetarians are insane; on the contrary, in consideration to all the animals we save from slaughtering each year, we are the more conscientious ones.

It is my belief that people should eat whatever they want. People must eat to survive, and depending on the location or culture they grow up in, a very narrow menu may exist to achieve that survival.

I went vegetarian in June 2011. Since then, eating at restaurants has become more difficult, people scoff at my dietary decision and barbarians wave chicken legs in my face. I also forgot about the prospect of buying my lunches in the high school cafeteria thanks to its poor meat-free accommodations for people like me.

But despite all this, I continue my personal crusade against eating meat. Although it originally began because I found meat disgusting, it has developed into an adamant belief that if farms begin producing less meat and more wheat, there will be more food to go around for everyone on this planet of 7 billion people, more than 1 billion of which suffer from malnutrition. Since last June, this belief has grown and become a central moral in my meatless odyssey.

Regardless of your reason to quit meat–mine was repulsion–you will indirectly contribute to increasing the availability of food in the world. Animals (including fish) are friends, not food.

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