THE VEGETARIAN SPECTRUM

The Milk Moustache’s Katelin Meredith explores the vegetarian lifestyle from an outsiders perspective.

A supporter of the no-meat choice, Katelin lightheartedly observes the spectrum of reasons behind why people choose to leave meat behind.

On a recent trip to Europe, while eating my way to a new notch on my belt, the fascination with vegetarianism began. Travelling with a vegetarian, my eyes were opened for the first time to a world of mung bean pancakes and tofu burgers. I’m an unapologetic omnivore, with as much bacon on my plate as the next person, although for the first time, I was forced to think more closely about what I chose to eat; a passive vegetarian if you will. Inadvertently, my days as a passive vegetarian led me to categorise those that adopt such a lifestyle around me.

If you refuse to eat meat, why do you wear leather?

Let’s first begin with the I-don’t-eat-meat-but-it’s-okay-to-wear-it kind. Possibly the biggest hypocrisy of the vegetarian psyche. To wear leather or not to wear leather is often a very grey question for many vegetarians. Some argue that it’s okay to wear leather, as it is only a by-product of the meat industry; you are really saving it from the floors of the abattoir. Obviously no animal farmed for meat or any other purpose has reached the natural end of their lifespan though. True, while the skin only represents 10 per cent of the animal’s total value, it’s still suffering in the slaughterhouse before it arrives to you.

What’s the appeal of fake meat?

The fake meat dilemma. Mock meat, faux meat, or imitation meat, whatever the name to you and I; to vegetarians it’s a tofurkey sausage or chick’n nuggets. To many die-hard veggies, this is a no-no, however to many others, fake meat can offer a convenient, sustainable, and strangely satisfying alternative. Recently reported in the Telegraph was the successful engineering of pork-like meat in a lab in the Netherlands. There’s no word yet on how it tastes, but the crazy thing is that faux beef could be gracing our dinner tables within the next five years. PETA has jumped on this bandwagon, offering $1 million to the first company that can lab-grow chicken meat by 2012. “We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium,” said Winston Churchill back in 1932, and growing parts, it seems, is what we will do.

But animals have feelings and faces too?

No predator in the animal kingdom is ever going to suffer from guilt for killing and eating another animal, and to many the question remains, why should we? The if-it-has-a-face justification is another confusing reason given to meat eaters in an attempt to discourage us from the blood-dripping steak in front of us. If it’s the animal’s face that’s stopping you from eating meat, the fact that it’s sliced up into bite size pieces surely distances it from the ‘cow in the paddock’ image? Preferencing is another obscure factor that comes down to the choice of whether or not to eat meat. Why is it okay to wear a cow’s skin, but not a mink or fox’s? And why is eating a dog so much worse than a pig, especially when a pig’s intelligence far outweighs that of a yappy jack russell?

Why is there a different moral compass for fish?

Furthering this, is the issue of fish. We point our fingers and laugh at vegetarians who eat fish, because ‘I don’t eat animals’ seems to be code for ‘I don’t eat cute farm animals.’ Fish are quite ugly. I still remember the first time I went fishing. Having only been to the aquarium once, cartoon fish were all I was going off when imagining what a fish looked like. I nearly wanted to throw that flathead back in I was so off-put by its appearance. But why is there a prejudice amongst the vegetarian community against fish? It seems because the ocean isn’t the paddock next door, that isolation somehow disconnects us from this moral dilemma.

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