The Hesitant Herbivore, Part 2

Yup. Hate it all.

I hate fruit. I hate oranges because they’re pulpy, bananas because they’re mushy, and grapes because they pop like eyeballs might when you squeeze them between your teeth. I hate mangos because they’re slimy without their skin and smell like pepper. I hate watermelon because it smells like cat pee (to me). I like kiwi because they’re pretty, but I hate the way they taste.

I also hate most vegetables. Beets, broccoli and asparagus are all gross. Brussels sprouts are beyond disgusting and I’m not overly fond of peas or carrots.  And beans. I really hate beans. Pretty much, I hate almost everything people eat that grows in the dirt.

So naturally I decided to become a vegetarian. And then I thought, Oh shit. I’m going to starve.

I’ve been a carnivore all my life and always figured that’s the way nature intended it to be. And I’ve probably spent more time than your average bear contemplating nature’s intentions. I’m a natural history buff – fossils, bees, birds, trees – I think it’s all pretty fascinating stuff.  As a kid, I was one of those nerds who loved a good nature documentary but I had to cover my eyes when the lions caught the zebra or the polar bear dragged a seal out of a hole in the ice. Nature is grand and glorious and brutal. And that’s not good or bad, it just is. It’s the way life works.

And so we human beings, as part of nature, are also brutal, because we have to be. Animals are food. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Or is it?

A hundred thousand years ago, our ancestors ate what they could gather in the forest or the fields and also what they could hunt, kill and cook in order to survive. Even when agriculture was invented, supplementing their diet with meat from newly domesticated animals was a logical choice for early people. But things have changed. Now there is Kroger. Now there is Food Lion, Harris Teeter, Costco, Safeway, Publix, WalMart Supercenters, and The Pig (or Piggly Wiggly for those of you not familiar with this fine southern grocery establishment).

Gathering ain’t what it used to be.

There’s a supermarket on virtually every corner in this country where a person can go and buy a wide variety of nutritional plant-based foods and a bottle of B-12 supplements and be just fine even if they never ate meat again. So after 46 years, I finally realized the problem with the logic I used to justify my carnivorous diet. There is nothing natural at all about our modern way of life, so why would I use nature as a model for my behavior?

I learned a new phrase recently:  “selective compassion.” It just what you might imagine – the act of compartmentalizing the compassion you allow yourself to feel for other living things. On the one hand you have people, dogs and other pets, animals in the wild, and wild animals in captivity and all of these, as amazing living things, are deserving of our compassion. And then there are animals that become, or provide, food – cows, chickens, pigs are the most common in our culture. And seafood. (Isn’t is interesting how we use our language to reduce a whole host of ocean creatures to food with one compound word?)

I realized I’ve been practicing selective compassion all my life (as most of us do). Though I’ve believed for a long time that there are more humane dietary choices for us modern humans, it took me 46 years to get up the gumption to even try a meatless diet, because I was afraid that if I allowed myself to feel compassion for our “food” animals, I would have to stop eating them. And then my retarded palate might just kill me.

So for me, the time had come to put up or shut up. It’s hard to be a bleeding-heart animal lover and a carnivore. I was either going to have to learn to eat more things that grow in the dirt, or admit that human beings are brutal by choice not by necessity…

Look for part 3 tomorrow in which I will expound upon the evidence that finally helped me overcome my fear of “death by vegetable” and led me to become a vegan convert.

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15 Comments

  1. You had me cracking up. Maybe it’s age. Maybe it’s media coverage, but I’ve been toying around with this idea for some time, moving over to the vegetarian side. Part of me still feels like animals can still be food but it’s the killing process, processing of the meat, and how they are cared for alive that bothers me. And how do you find all of that out before you buy and eat?

    I’ve never been a huge meat eater anyway, and I don’t mind food from the earth. But I certainly like it a whole lot better when it’s in something–risotto, mac and cheese, pasta, anything with a sauce! Good luck. Great post.

    Reply
    • I wasn’t a huge meat-eater either, but I miss a good cheeseburger once in a while. I know what you mean about the sauces, though! So much of the really good stuff is cheese or dairy based. I miss macaroni and cheese! I miss butter on my pasta. I’m learning though. It’s all about oils and herbs and spices now. Thanks for the support and good luck to you if you decided to make a change.

      Reply
  2. I’ve been feeling that I should become a vegan or at least a vegetarian for a while now, too. And seeing the commercials for one of the organizations against animal cruelty on tv over and over again lately (the one where you see a cow slipping and falling at an abbatoir and being shoved along by a machine), was the last drop. I already hardly ever ate mammal because my son stopped eating mammal when he was five, and now, when I feel like chicken, that scene pops into my mind and it’s not hard at all to say no to it. But I do still eat fish. Seafood. I guess that is selective compassion. My reasoning is that until they were caught, at least those fish had a normal fish life. And . . . I simply can’t imagine a life without salmon.

    Reply
    • Congratulations on not eating mammals! I wish I had started sooner. I know just what you mean about the images. I’ve been reading a lot about the farm animal industry and now every time I even think about meat, some horrific image pops into my mind. Now that I’ve conditioned myself, I don’t know if I could eat meat if I wanted to. I do have trouble feeling compassion for fish and marine invertebrates. It’s hard to empathize with a shrimp. Though I do feel compassion for dolphins killed by tuna fishermen and sea turtles killed by shrimpers and all the other incidental victims of commercial fishing. So it’s fortunate for me, I suppose, that I’ve never liked seafood. Never could stand to eat anything that came out of the ocean (or freshwater). Our oldest son eats no meat but seafood (calls himself a pescetarian). So you could keep the salmon and do away with the rest. Good luck in whatever course you choose (and I hope you write about it).

      Reply
  3. Haaaa! I love it. Thanks for the laugh. 🙂

    Ironically, as a lifelong veg, I have “issues” with many vegetables and fruits as well. Go figure. Thank goodness for the grains, nuts, tempeh, and all other handy things to mix in there! Great to bring up the “selective compassion” issue as well… Where I was raised — not far, at least — people ate cat and dog. So I was asking the question “what’s the difference between a cat and a pig (an extremely smart critter) or a cow?” from a very young age. Today people are so far removed from the slaughter of these sentient creatures (neatly packaged in grocery stores), that they simply choose not to think about the processes anymore. May be my imagination, but it seems as though more and more are thinking about this now, however…?

    Reply
    • If it weren’t for nuts and grains, I would be starving. And tubers. Potatoes. Peanutbutter sandwiches, Cashews and sunflower seeds, and fried rice (without the egg). I do like a few vegetables fresh and so I have a lot of salads too. I haven’t tried tempeh, yet. I think you’re right about the farm industry being so far removed from all of us in our culture, it’s just too easy to not think about it. That’s what I did for 46 years. Thanks for all the support. It’s really cool to be in touch with someone who has done this all her life.

      Reply
      • Ohhh…. LOVE my potatoes! And cashews (cashew butter’s the best). One of my favorite meals: cut red potatoes, carrots (and broccoli if you want), onions, garlic — covered in olive oil and fresh rosemary, thrown in the oven. YUM. There’s so much out there to help you now… You’ll do great! Quorn’s another GREAT product, to avoid all the soy. 🙂

  4. Can’t wait to read how you tip-toe through the fruits and vegetables to something you can actually eat!

    Reply
    • Peanutbutter sandwiches are a life saver. And I actually do like a few vegetables as long as they are fresh and crunchy so lots of salads with sunflower seeds instead of cheese and a vinaigrette instead of ranch dressing. And I’m learning to make rice and pasta and potatoes with some flavor without using butter or cheese. No fruit though. I tried raisins and grapes but I don’t really like them and just can’t stick with it. I buy Granny Smith apples which used to be the only fruit I liked but they sit until number one son eats them. In the meantime, I take supplements until I learn to balance everything. How about you? What do you subsist on mostly these days?

      Reply
      • I love fruit and most vegetables, so this diet isn’t a hardship at all. I made a great spaghetti sauce last night with all the “must-go” veggies in my fridge, loads of garlic and a dash of white wine. Never missed the parm. cheese.

  5. My wife became a vegetarian for the same reason; good for you! Now there’s more meat for the rest of us. I could never be a vegetarian, because I so love the taste of properly prepared dead animal flesh. I do feel bad about the mistreatment of animals raised for consumption, but so far I take the ostrich approach and avoid any exposure to the details of it. Congrats on being yet another person who’s clearly better than I!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Struggler! Our house is also divided now in terms of diet. My partner is trying the no-meat thing but says she just can’t do without dairy. And the kids still eat everything (since at least one of them would starve if I said he couldn’t have meat anymore). So it makes dinnertime challenging. Do you and your wife ever get to go out to eat anymore? Finding a restaurant for carnivores and veggie-munchers both has proven challenging.

      Reply
      • We do; occasionally we’ll go to a place that caters to the vegan, but for the most part, she has to compromise. Everyone offers salad choices these days, but when you resolve to eat only grass, leaves, roots, berries and sticks, sometimes your choices are limited. Sucks for you!

  1. The Hesitant Herbivore, Part 2 | Fork in My Eye | Animals R Us | Scoop.it

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