Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Like Nicotine Patches. Except for Meat.

Honestly, I'm all for becoming a vegetarian.

Not because I'm opposed to killing for food, mind you. I acknowledge that humans are naturally omnivorous, and agree that killing and eating other animals isn't an evil of modern society any more than reproducing is. It's not the idea that doesn't rest well with me -- it's the way we carry that idea out.

For example:
  • Mass meat production is environmentally unsustainable. Animal wastes from factory farms cause huge amounts of pollution, and the meat industry is actually the number one producer of greenhouse gases.
  • Eating meat is less efficient than eating plant-derived food. Biology tells us that energy transfers from one trophic level to the next is far from 100% efficient -- which basically means that if you take a field and plant it with grain for bread, you can feed many more people than you can if you take a field, plant it with grain, feed that grain to cows, and then kill and eat the cows.
  • Have you ever seen a picture or video of a factory farm? 'Nuff said.
Yeah, so, becoming vegetarian? Sounds like a good deal to me.

But there's one problem: I don't think I could give up meat.

I like meat. Though I don't eat much of it, but I would definitely miss it if I gave it up. Chicken and turkey I could probably do away with. Ham and pork might be hard, but I'd get over it. But hamburgers? How could I give up ground beef? And fish? Forget it! Never going to happen.

I'm pretty sure I'm not alone here. I'm sure that there've got to be more people -- quite a good number of people, I'd suspect -- who have all these reasons to become vegetarian and that one big but standing in their way.

So! I've come up with a simple and brilliant solution that will probably be ridiculed from here to somewhere very far away: demi-vegetarianism.

Ah, I hear scoffs already. Bona fide vegetarians are always looked at with this sort of... I dunno, contempt. What, you're too good for meat or something? Why're you trying to fight how humans naturally are? You're just looking for attention, aren't you? I can't imagine the kind of harsh judgement a demi-vegetarian would be subjected to.

But hear me out here. If you can't bear to give up meat entirely, why can't you just cut back? Maybe have weeks during which you do eat meat, and weeks during which you don't. Or stop eating the kinds of meat you can live without. Or even just make an active effort to choose alternative foods.

But wouldn't this be horribly hypocritical? Sure, if your sole reason for being vegetarians was a moral thing. If you say "It's wrong to eat animals!" and then go around eating animals, you're not going to garner yourself any sympathy. But what if you object to the meat industry? Or you'd like to be vegetarian for health reasons? If you can't give up meat entirely, wouldn't it be better to just cut back?

And who knows? Maybe you'll find that you don't miss meat as much as you thought, and decide to go all out. Demi-vegetarianism could either be a lifestyle choice on its own, or like training wheels for the real thing.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is this: do you have to never use an electrical appliance again in order to conserve energy? No! Do you have to refuse sweets forever in order to eat healthily? No! In my opinion, the only reason why vegetarianism is "all or nothing" is because vegetarians are stereotyped as either fanatical or only doing it for the attention -- therefore, any deviation from leafy green orthodoxy is mocked.

I think, after Thanksgiving, I might try being a demi-vegetarian for awhile and see how it works out.

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