During my senior year of high school I watched a documentary on HBO about animal cruelty. I can’t remember the name of the film but its content has stuck with me ever since. The very next day after viewing the disturbing images I vowed not to eat meat anymore. Sure, the things the video showed were graphic and gross (I won’t get into that they showed) but what really affected me was something that was said… the narrator talked about people in Asian countries eating cats and dogs and they said, if you find this disturbing, why is it any different than eating a cow or pig. That really struck me. It was so true.
Our culture dictates what we consider food versus pets versus wild animals. We would be appalled to see dog on a menu here in the U.S., but consider that pigs are just as smart, and in fact may be even smarter, than dogs. People here even have certain pigs (Vietnamese pot-bellied ones) as pets. So can we really, in good conscience, judge people who eat dogs as more inhumane than us?
I didn’t like how that question made me feel. I had spent the first seventeen years of my life eating all sorts of meat (the kind deemed ok by our society, at least) yet when confronted with the question of what makes it ok to eat one animal versus another, my beliefs were shaken. So I gave up meat cold turkey, no pun intended.
Has it been easy all these years? No, certainly not. Eating out was always the hardest part, especially in the early years. A restaurant’s idea of a vegetarian meal was a salad or bland pasta, and I am not a fan of pasta whatsoever. So I became a pizza and French fry kind of vegetarian all through college. Not very healthy, I’ll admit! But I lived that way for more than ten years without eating any meat at all. The only thing I really craved was my dad’s pork chops with minced garlic. Even today the thought of them makes me hungry… but I remain strong.
Yet I have to admit that I am no longer a “true” vegetarian. About ten years ago I couldn’t take it anymore. Eating out had lost all joy for me. I missed shrimp, fish and other seafood. I caved and became a pescatarian, which means someone who is mostly a vegetarian but will eat fish and seafood. And no, I am not one of the many people who says fish isn’t meat (hello Catholics, I’m talking to you!). I agree that it is a meat. It is a living animal made of flesh/muscle so it is meat. I probably still haven’t totally come to terms with my decision, especially when I look at the cute fish swimming in my tank at home, but I did what I did and know I must own it. I tell myself that any reduction in meat consumption is better than no reduction at all. And I tend to eat fish/seafood at most a half dozen meals a week, and that’s usually a few sardines in my salad for lunch. I try to remain vegetarian for 80 percent or more of my time.
However, I know that a majority of people in the U.S. would find my way of eating quite difficult, if not downright unpleasant. I don’t usually preach about why I eat this way, but for my blog readers I did at least want to point out why eating lower on the food chain is better for the environment and how the Meatless Monday movement is making small strides to get everyone to eat a little less meat, recognizing that making people give something up completely usually doesn’t work (hello Prohibition!). So look for that in my next blog…