Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Meat Eater's View of Vegans and Vegetarians

I just read a very thought provoking blog over on Food Buzz written by a vegan talking about her lifestyle and how others perceive her. I expected her to be very haughty and self-righteous. Instead I read a thoughtful missive, written by a sensitive, warm-hearted woman, with whom I could make a connection, even though I myself am a meat-eater.

Back when I was in college I suffered from horrible allergies. I tried allergy pills, allergy shots, and avoiding everything I was allergic to, but nothing seamed to help.  This was during a time when the popular culture was vilifying red meat and sugar, so I thought that if I eliminated beef, pork and sugar from my diet my health would improve. I don't know what label would have applied to me as I was still eating chicken and fish, but to me it was a "vegetarian" lifestyle.

It was an interesting experience. I lost about five pounds without even trying, but in the ensuing months I caught cold after cold after cold.  This was not at all normal for me, so after about six months I gave up and resumed eating meat again. As soon as I did, I stopped catching so many colds. I learned that at least for me, there was something in red meat that my body needed in order to have a strong immune system.

What was also interesting was the way others reacted to me during that time. Whenever I told anyone I was a "vegetarian"  I would often get raised eyebrows and be asked a lot of questions why.  Many times I had to explain that I was doing this for health reasons only, and not for political reasons.  I also got pressure from some of my red meat eating friends as well as family members. They acted like there was something wrong with me for no longer eating steaks and hamburgers, probably because steaks and hamburgers had always been some of my favorite foods.

Perhaps it's a misconception that all vegetarians are arrogant snobs who confront others for eating prime rib or pork chops. I do recall seeing a news story on television a few years ago, back when Paul McCartney was getting ready for his wedding to Heather Mills, which mentioned that he'd made it known that anyone working at his wedding site who brought any kind of meat in their lunchboxes was to be fired immediately. That is indeed stomping on other people's boundaries, and I suppose that kind of bad attitude from a high profile vegetarian is the reason why other vegetarians may be getting an undeserved bad rap. However none of the vegetarians I've known, (and I admit I haven't known that many), have had that kind of mentality. Instead of looking down their noses, they appreciated my efforts to prepare meals for them that they could enjoy, or taking them to restaurants that had some vegetarian choices on their menus.

Food choices are very personal and people make them for many reasons, be they religious, cultural, health related, or even political. I won't condemn anyone for being a vegetarian, but at the same time I expect vegetarians to respect my choice to eat meat.

My thought for the day.


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