The Case for Vegetabletarianism

Posted on August 2nd, 2003 in Mynagirl by mynagirl

I’ve decided I’m a vegetabletarian. I might be the first and only. You see, I’ve been in a bind for a couple of years. I am an animal lover, and lately I’ve been feeling flat-out odd about eating them, as I’ve done for all of my life up until now. I’m sure in a post-apocalyptic world I could become hungry enough to kill an animal for food, but as the child of a comfortable and genteel age I am uncomfortable at the thought of a living, breathing creature dying for me to eat its flesh.

But until recently I haven’t seen a practical alternative to being a regular, card-carrying member of normal, meat-eating society. Veganism is, like other religions, a form of deluded zealotry I cannot connect with; even more moderate vegetarians can be a general pain in the ass — the pariah of the group lunch, the impromptu dinner with relatives, the summer bar-b-que, and any other social situation where being an overly vocal picky eater makes the entire event a drag for the normal people who just wanna eat their hot dog.

The other general problem I have with vegetarie-egans is that sometimes they seem to claim that humans aren’t meant to eat meat. Clearly, humans, like many creatures on this planet, evolved to eat meat, and I find it ridiculous to dispute that. For the record, I do, however, revile hunting as the sport of psychopaths and evolutionary retards. I think there is something fundamentally wrong with someone raised in our modern-day society who can consciously cause pain and terror in a living creature for fun. Even if hunters do eat their kill as did our cavemen ancestors, it doesn’t make any difference to me… there are lots of things our ancestors did (raping, stoning an unwanted child, killing a neighbor over a small dispute) that would be illegal or immoral by even the loosest of today’s standards.

But if you look closely at the factory farming industry, I’m not sure they’re much more concerned with animal pain and suffering than the hunting retards (although presumably the guy killing the chicken in the meat factory doesn’t actually enjoy it). Animals, especially the smaller ones, are given such a minimum of space to live that you can’t even imagine it. I read one article that equated the amount of space farmed chickens have to a human living in an elevator with 10 other people for his entire life — doesn’t really seem what nature intended, does it? As a kid, you’re often not really aware of those kind of things; you eat a Happy Meal and you’re happy. But as an adult, I find myself wishing that I could eat the meat my body wants without worrying that my dinner was kept in a cage and force-fed through a tube.

So, let’s imagine for a moment that one factory farming company’s owner (the companies are more likely all multi-national conglomerates, but play along here) decides to be a kinder, gentler factory farmer. Animals get a lot more space to move around, conditions are much more humane, the animals are happier and killed quickly with no suffering. The critters have less hormones put into them, so they’re more like their “natural” selves — they aren’t as big, though, so one chicken produces fewer pounds of meat. Mr. Factory Farmer takes his product to market, making sure he’s still competitively priced with the other meat vendors. And he goes out of business. Americans buy with their dollars, and not enough Americans care or know about the conditions of their food before it becomes food. In a normal day, they go about their business with work, money, love life, kids, and other daily concerns. The buy the meat they can afford, or the meat that’s available to them when they need a meal on the go, and that’s about it.

So what alternative do I have available to me if factory-farmed food makes me queasy but I think vegetarians can be a kooky, unrealistic bunch? I have the same daily concerns as the rest of Americans; I can’t quite move out to a farm and produce my own means of subsistence. I work for a living; if I want to look like I’ve dressed for the office, I wear leather shoes. Well, as far as I can work out in my own mind, the answer is vegetabletarianism — my own personal concoction of a lessened reliance on factory farmed meat products without the dogmatism I perceive in today’s vegetarianism. It means that if I can buy meat that’s raised in a manner I can live with, I might eat it, even if it’s at a premium price. It means that I buy eggs at triple price because they’re from free roaming hens.

However, it means that if I’m at my mother-in-law’s and she’s cooked a big meal with brisket, I won’t refuse to sit down with everyone else. I won’t make a big production about fixing a veggie meal just for myself. I won’t excoriate my fellow diners with how they’re eating cruelly farmed meat. In short, I won’t make a pain in the ass of myself. I’ll try to live in the real world — minimizing my reliance on factory-farmed meat but recognizing that I might sometimes be in a situation where I can’t stick to that 100%. Keeping my eye out for places and companies that sell ‘happy’ meat; ordering it when and if I can. The best way in our country to effect change is with the pocketbook. And who knows, maybe there are other people out there who don’t like factory farming but can’t commit to the only alternative they see in society — vegetarianism without compromise. Maybe a practical approach will catch on with others like me, and you’ll start seeing high-priced, cruelty-free ‘vegetabletarian’ products at your local store.

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