Following my recent column about vegetarianism, I received a wave of hate mail from meat eaters. This came as no surprise -- as food has finally become a political issue in America (as it should), some carnivores have become increasingly aggressive toward anyone or any fact that even vaguely prompts them to critically consider their culinary habit. Although the stereotype imagines vegetarians sententiously screaming at any meat eater they see at the lunch counter or dinner table, I've found quite the opposite to be true. In my personal life, I go out of my way to avoid talking about my vegetarianism while I'm eating with friends, family or work colleagues, but nonetheless regularly find myself being interrogated by carnivores when they happen to notice that I'm not wolfing down a plate of meat.
Having been a vegetarian for more than a decade now, and having been raised in a family of proud meat eaters, I'm going to use this space to publish a brief primer for both vegetarians and those who are considering vegetarianism -- a primer on what kind of blowback you should expect to face when you are forced to publicly explain your personal dietary decision, and what succinct, fact-based responses are most appropriate when confronting the tired cliches that will be thrown at you from enraged carnivores. [. . .] (David Sirota, “A vegetarian’s guide to talking to carnivores,” Salon, 24 August 2011)
The carnivore-in-the-vegetarian's guide to discussing sensibly with its new solely vegetarian self.
David, I'm glad to hear you read the comments. I feel it's always appropriate, but not always a class-circumspect thing to do (or at least to admit to).
I grew up meat-eating in the 70s and 80s. Loved so much of those times, and the food -- the whole pleasure of life learned "encountering" it -- is something I treasure. It may be that someone vegetarian at birth is not missing out on something if they never came to know what tastes, what treasurable stories of experience, meat afforded us, but I think that those of us who went vegan at some point but certainly remembered how much they once enjoyed meat, should always communicate some considerable fidelity to this fact.
You shouldn't be killing animals for food -- to be able to consciously kill an animal is something that if we don't powerfully and fully flinch from, automatically shows us possessed of sadism, some disturbing capacity to switch to a otherwise disconnected self when engaged in acts of violence. But it may really be that the world of experience is wonderful, resplendent, "Julia Child" lessened in not knowing the tastes afforded by meat. (No one in our century-past communicated a love for food that surpassed what she afforded [compared to her joie-de-vivre, our Pollans in fact seem depleted, and as if out of their venerance for unadulterated, rough-skinned vegetables]. The 60s and 70s had abandoned restraint and went whole-hog for pleasure, and this generation of highly evolved people weren't yet one that had abandoned meat. The unfortunate thing about current vegans is that they came on mostly after the 60s and 70s golden ages had passed, and so haven't yet had their time when they didn't also communicate shrewism, scolding, restriction. That'll come, but only after the current depression fully unfolds, another possible world war, and then, finally, accompanying the collective agreement that a golden age is once again fully warranted.)
It's hard for us born loving meat to know for sure, but if true, we shouldn't be afraid to admit this even as we lessen the pleasure we take from fat, expand that we take from vegetables and legumes, and refuse to inconscionably kill what should simply have been respected.