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Learning how to be vegetarian without being a jerk about it

These are some of the things I have consumed alone in my car in shame.
These are some of the things I have consumed alone in my car in shame.

Many times in my life, others have assumed I was a vegetarian. At a work function or a family dinner, someone would attempt to pass me some kind of animal product, only to pull back the offering abruptly and say, "Oh, I forgot. You're vegetarian." But I'm not a vegetarian -- never have been -- and up until this past weekend, I never once considered it.

However, I'm starting to think that in the evolution my of own life and as a person who is conscious of how she treats others, vegetarianism might be the logical next step.

See also: Five best vegetarian restaurants in Denver

Kale chips rule!
Kale chips rule!

I think militant vegan types must feel as I do about feminism: The facts are out there, the injustice is real. Why aren't people jumping on board with what we're trying to do, which is just making the world right for all beings who inhabit it?

I wish I had some thought-provoking and complex answer as to why I still eat meat, but I don't. I have the same reasoning many people in my position probably do: I like the taste of meat. That, and I see the struggles of my friends and family as they try to socially navigate vegetarianism and veganism every day. I'm talking less about the availability of good food choices (there are plenty of plant-based food choices, especially protein sources, that are accessible and not hard to prepare) and more about the social nature of explaining to every single person who is serving or selling food to you, preparing it for you or sharing it with you why you choose to not eat meat and how it is something that isn't that difficult to do.

But sometimes we love things that are awful for us, so much so that we want to own them: I'm a recovering alcoholic who once pridefully identified myself by my adoration and consumption of shit beer and the extra-long, extra-chemical-filled cigarettes I left in ashtrays across the city as a calling card.

Come on, dude. "Owning" the idea that you eat beef or pork or chicken that was not ethically procured isn't cool; it makes you look like an idiot. It is that kind of mindless entitlement that comes along with a pro-animal diet that I find embarrassing, though I am equally guilty of it. My internal monologue has many times said stuff like, "Whatever! I eat whatever I want because I am an autonomous body who is free to consume as I please!" Which is so distressingly shortsighted for someone who pretends to be intelligent and considers herself an empath.

My shaman (yup, you've got a family doctor, I've got a shaman) said something to me once that has stuck in my brain for a long time: When we eat products made from animals who spent their lives in pain, only to die horrible deaths, how can we not be consuming their energy, too?

I know that for Americans, mindless consumption is our thing; no one who actively eats a DoubleDown is listening to their body. If we did, I think we would be a lot nicer to each other in general -- and not do things like block traffic in order to take our road-raging to the ultimate level of insanity. I'm not saying a poor diet is the sole reason for bad behavior in this world, but it probably accounts for more than we realize.

I remember being on tour and standing in a massive truck stop in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas with hundreds of terrifying food choices, yet not being able to find anything to eat that wasn't remotely processed beyond recognition. I watched my vegan tourmate struggle with horrific vomiting and diarrhea after he attempted to buck up and not be vegan for those two weeks that we were stuck in the cab of a Ford F-150 together. It sucked.

 

Mainstream America is slowly hipping to vegetarianism, though it still seems like an endlessly misunderstood concept (unlike, say, the Atkins diet, which folks are still hopelessly clinging to as it gets rebranded over and over again). Someone told me once that Subways are surpassing McDonald's in physical locations across the U.S. because they require so little start-up -- you don't even need a fryer for the disgusting meat sandwiches, you just need a countertop and a refrigerator and voilà, horrible food served under the guise of good health. (I don't have time to get into the lies the industry of food sells us: There are plenty of books, documentaries and countless articles devoted to the topic that you can Google at your leisure.)

I posed this question of the choice to become vegetarian on Facebook over the weekend. I know that at least 400 of my 1,200 closest "friends" on FB are probably vegetarian or vegan, and I wanted to get the chatter machine rolling. Seriously, Facebook is actually an effective social tool sometimes, in that you can get forty people in a virtual "room" who would never interact otherwise and get them to talk to (or at) each other about any given topic.

My own ironic oversight that was so graciously pointed out by fellow Westworder Josiah Hesse was that I posted this vegetarian quandary status on the night those same 400 friends went to see Morrissey at Ellie Caulkins Opera House. If you're not familiar with Moz, he's a musician I personally can't stand but a lot of people I know adore. Oh, and he doesn't eat meat and makes a point to inform his fans of this in very graphic ways.

Anyway, although my investigation into the whys and hows of vegetarianism had nothing to do with Morrissey, I was glad to take in the very helpful insights from Facebook friends -- some of whom have been veggie for decades, others who tried it and quit, some who are like me and currently navigating the plant-based diet world for the first time.

As far as I can tell, it isn't that difficult to be vegetarian. While I am only on day two and still consuming cage-free eggs, organic milk and the occasional meal involving fish, I think I can get there. I already consume plenty of fake meat products (though I know the dangers of GMO soy products and soy in general isn't much better for my body), at least I can contribute by being one less consumer of the scary, scary products of factory-farming industry. I have a long way to go, but I hope this at least inspires you to think differently about one meal you eat today.

Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies



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