After I penned my open letter to militant vegans, several people asked why I was focusing on militant vegans and letting meat-eaters off the hook.
They had a point. Although I take issue with the comments that suggested militant vegans are an urban legend -- I've met more of them than I care to remember -- bossy, up-in-my-business carnivores are much, much more prevalent. So, meat-eaters, let me just ask you this: Why?
Do my dietary choices somehow threaten you? Do they make you feel bad about yourself -- insecure, sad and lonely? Or are you just one of those people who likes to play devil's advocate and stir the pot?
If it's the latter, then I guess that's your prerogative -- but for what it's worth, I was a teenage vegetarian in a household with two meat-eating younger brothers, who used to joke about eating my pet chicken, Jasper. My mother grew up on a family farm, and on that farm, my grandfather raised and sold pigs and cattle for slaughter. So between my brothers and the extended family on my mother's side, I've heard every argument, "clever" jibe and snarky comment it's possible for a meat-eater to utter to a vegetarian.
I put up with it from my family, because I love them and I know they love my salad-eating self as well -- but from strangers and acquaintances, it's a bit much. You might think you're being witty and original, but most of the meat-slinging y'all get into is highly repetitive; I've heard it all before. And if it makes you chuckle, then that makes one of us who's amused by your boring, self-congratulatory drivel. (If you do manage to come up with something I've never heard before? I'll buy you a burger.)
And if my dietary choices frighten you? I'd be happy to answer any serious questions about my dietary lifestyle; in fact, I do it all the time. The most common question from your ilk, of course, is this: "Why would you ever give up meat? It tastes so good!"
Ask that, and I'll explain how my abnormally healthy, active father had a fatal heart attack when he was 53 and I was 25, which scared me into some better behaviors. (Maybe that will make you feel bad for prying -- but in my experience, probably not.) I quit smoking, which I'd done for the better part of ten years, and got my cholesterol checked -- which turned out to be abnormally high for someone my age. When I eat meat, that is. The only thing that got my cholesterol down to a manageable level was going veg. (And this is aside from my family history of cervical cancer, breast cancer and diabetes -- all of which can be fought by eating a low-fat, vegetarian diet.)
So I get attacked by the militant vegans for giving up meat and dairy for "the wrong reasons," while from cranky carnivores, I get this: "Well, why don't you just take a drug for that?"
Because I'm kind of a hippie, that's why. I don't see the point in addressing the symptoms of a problem when I can get straight to the root with some diet-and-exercise changes. I know that's not really the American way, but that's what I've chosen to do.
(As an aside: There are people with far more serious health issues than mine, which is why it's inexcusable for some restaurant owners -- like Larry Gutierrez of Little Anita's -- to think that that broth simmered with dead cow or chicken is still "vegetarian," and advertise their food as such. I'm not looking for special treatment -- if you don't have a wide vegetarian selection, I'll just order a salad with balsamic vinaigrette, and 86 the cheese. But there are some people with serious food allergies, and if you don't understand that you need to be aware of the ingredients in your dishes and disclose those to your customers when they ask, then you really need to get out of the restaurant business. )
Here's the real question for meddling meat-eaters: Why the hell do you care? Why are you so very, very bothered by the fact that I made a decision to better my health and am following a plan and reaping the benefits? And why are you trying to convince me that my choice is bad for American jobs or my own health?
As I noted in my original open letter to militant vegans, I am not one of those vegans who calls other people out on what I might perceive to be inappropriate eating habits. Because I feel (and I know people disagree with me here) that it's none of my business. Just like what I eat is none of your business. When I'm invited to someone's house for a meal, I always offer to provide a recipe or bring a dish or two myself, so they're not put out by my dietary choices. When guests stay at my house, I don't have a problem with them purchasing their own meat and preparing it in my kitchen. I'm just not that girl.
So why do you insist on being that guy? What IS it about me and my lifestyle that causes such a huge problem for you? I leave you alone; is it too much to ask that you show the same respect for me?
My friends are fine with my choices -- but I've encountered many strangers and near-strangers who'll attack me for my eating habits, without provocation. Some of them are vegans, but most are carnivores. I'll get into a seemingly innocent conversation with someone while eating lunch alone, or standing in line at the grocery store -- and one time, even while on a date -- and suddenly, it's all about how I'm probably not getting enough protein (I get plenty) or calcium (same) or how liberals are ruining the country with their nanny-state mentality (I'm not even sure how that gets worked into the equation). I'm just trying to eat my lunch/buy my groceries/whatever it is I was doing before you came along. Okay?! (And to the guy who probably wondered why I wasn't interested in date number two: You were acting like an asshole. That is why.)
And if you're not happy with yourself -- which is the only reason I can think of why it would bother you so very much that some people have the temerity to choose a lifestyle change over a lifelong prescription-drug dependence -- then might I suggest figuring out what's wrong in your life and changing it yourself? Worked for me!
One final thought: For those of you who will argue that it's better to go on the offensive than the defensive -- perhaps you've had a prior experience with a veggie-lover that left a bad taste in your mouth, and you're afraid I'm going to give you the same treatment -- seriously? That's like being afraid of soccer balls because you got hit in the face with one when you were five. As you meat-eaters are so fond of reminding me, you probably are stronger and faster and better in every way physically than I am, anyway ... so why on God's green earth are you so threatened by a 5'3 girl who eats vegetables?
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Tell me, carnivores. Why?