Don’t Feel Irate If Meat’s On Your Plate
The Great Vegetarian Debate
© 1998 by Nenah Sylver
Vegetarianism: once the bane of knowledgeable palates and relegated to the domain of eccentrics, it is now—in some circles, at least—considered chic. Those fiber-
However, there still persists the notion that vegetables are for flakes. People who don’t eat meat are regarded as counter-
Thus did my predilections unintentionally cause a ruckus during a recent dinner outing with some politically progressive acquaintances. Collectively, these people had visited Nicaragua, done public interest law for the homeless, gone on AIDS walks, and demonstrated for clean air, abortion rights, and the ethical treatment of animals. However, to the degree that they were political, they were also pragmatists. They knew next to nothing about the paranormal or metaphysics, which from their perspective did not constitute "real life"—and thus did not merit the attention or effort they put into Things Undeniably Real. You can imagine how much of a stretch it was for them to hear me talk about "negative energy." Despite my metaphysical leanings, however, these highly political friends tolerated and even liked me. I surmised that my feminist and bisexual activism (through my writing and music) provided a counterbalance to what they considered my unusual approach to life.
But there was no way my nine table companions could have been prepared for my meal order. As soon as I asked the waiter for brisket, all conversation at my table instantly stopped and everyone stared at me. The six others of our group at the adjacent table leaned over in a single wave to stare at me too, and contemplate my preference. I knew most of them weren’t vegetarians, so it wasn’t a moral judgment. They were simply surprised—or should I say shocked. Someone who regularly blew sage through her apartment and was involved in "spiritual" things like meditation, eating meat? It just didn’t compute.
Of course I was thrilled to demolish the stereotype. "My metabolism requires meat," I explained gleefully, adding, "Besides, I love the taste. And the energy is very grounding. Meat feels really good to eat."
My political friends accepted this without further comment. However, with many vegetarians, I have a bone to pick. Some of the harshest criticism and outright verbal assault I have received for eating meat has come from vegetarians who claim to be peaceful, non-
Many of us are familiar with some of the arguments against eating meat. A few of these points seem reasonable and humane, borne of concern for the earth and its creatures. With the exception of animals raised organically, the conditions under which most are produced—in factory farms—are abominable: dirty, crowded, with the resulting force-
Simply put, this argument says that it’s more efficient for humans to eat grain and beans than cows. From the hamburger conglomerates’ uncaring destruction of the rainforests to the newest abomination of forcing chickens to wear red contact lenses in order to encourage more rapid egg laying (apparently it would be too expensive to redesign the henhouses with red lights), eating animals has been cited as unethical, unhealthy, or both.
But for someone who requires some animal protein in her diet in order to function optimally, being indicted by a vegetarian as an unfeeling murderer makes me wonder if their "beef" isn’t somewhat misplaced.
In a popular California grassroots newsletter, a reporter from the Sacramento Vegetarian Society criticized Earth First! activists for eating hamburgers at a political rally. In the same column, he attacked the Sacramento Natural Foods Cooperative for servicing their customers by carrying organic meat, mentioning his disgust at having to pass "dead animals" on his way to the brown rice and appraising carnivores as "enslaving and murdering animals." I say it’s time to stop this self-
Of the many reasons cited why people are—or if they’re not, should be—innate vegetarians, one item discussed the most often is the length of the human intestinal tract. Because it’s so long, claim vegetarian proponents, animal flesh putrefies before it’s excreted. Our ancestors, they insist, survived on nuts, berries and dandelion roots just fine; therefore, any deviation from this in today’s world means we’re all insensitive gluttons. There is something inherently racist about this assumption. One look at the indigenous diet of the North American Inuit (Eskimo)— a diet that largely consists of cholesterol-
Another consideration of whether someone should eat meat is the person’s metabolism. According to well-
It is also important to remember that within one person’s lifetime, dietary needs may vary. One day, eating beans might make someone fart; on another day, nary a cubic inch of excess gas will grace the surrounding air.. Also, there is the possibility that one can develop (if one doesn’t have it already) an allergy to soy, which is notoriously difficult to digest, or to dairy, which some people can’t digest at all because lactose intolerance is built into their genes.
Nonetheless, a great many vegetarians seem eager to consign an organic meat-
The manner in which we consume our food has a lot to do with how it comes out the other end. I’d rather be served a home-
Given the variety and richness of the human organism, then, people’s diets will naturally reflect the diversity of their geography, culture, metabolic type, and changing needs. This is the same richness and variety that the Native Americans recognized, and which enabled them, when they killed an animal for food, to bless it and thank the Great Creator for sustenance. To me, this lifestyle is infinitely more "spiritual" than any system that exhorts its followers to adhere to a set of principles because they’re the correct ones. It is possible to revere the earth as a living system and appreciate the support that the food chain provides, even if that support includes cows, deer and fish. Not one vegetarian I have spoken to has ever bothered to ask me why I eat meat.
What I eat, I eat with gratitude. Every bite reaffirms my connection to not only the earth but to myself, as I become more energetic and whole. I will continue to eat meat as long as it enables me to do my work, and to celebrate and foster life.
It will be a relief when dyed-
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of the magazine Eclectic Rainbows.