When people find out you're a vegetarian, they'll ask, "Wow, isn't that hard?"
But you might find the hardest part is being expected to always want to argue about food choices. Of course, you'll be happy to share the obvious reasons for giving up animal consumption—the ethical, health and environmental benefits that most people already know about—but you may get tired of having to perform the role of stand-in punching bag for the carnivore's guilty conscience.
Since you've already made the choice to stop eating animals, though, I'll tell you my story:
I stopped eating animals more than 20 years ago. To many of those raised vegetarian, eating an animal would be like eating a boot or a sock or a human foot, but since I was raised on animal-eating, it was normalized for me the way cannibal babies are raised to be cannibals—it seemed natural.
I remember enjoying eating animals, but I can't remember exactly how I felt about the violence, suffering and killing behind the slaughterhouse walls. I know that I tried not to think about it.
Around 1990, though, it became harder for me to just put out of mind where the food was coming from, and I started weaning myself off of animal eating, one type of critter at a time. I never liked eating lambs very much, so it was no big deal to stop eating them; my first major vegetarian decision was giving up cow-eating—no more steak, followed by no more hamburgers. After that, I kept working my way down the chain: giving up the consumption of pigs, then birds and finally fishes. The whole transition took about a year. I have flirted with quitting eggs and dairy, too. Arguments for veganism make sense to me—but I've never stuck with it for long.
I don't think it's my fault if my vegetarianism reminds people that they feel remorse for eating animals. Everybody has to decide how to live, what to eat, what not to eat. Most people eat animals. It's very normalized. There are few vegetarians in this country. We're minorities, anomalies—only about 3 percent of the American population, compared with India's 40 percent, or 400 million.
Do I expect everyone to stop eating animals? Not really. But I like that people seem less adamant these days about trying to get me to go back to it. I think it's great that awareness of vegetarianism is growing and that more and more people—especially in a relatively health-conscious town like San Diego—are incorporating more vegetarian food in their diets.
Which brings us back to you: Congratulations on your decision to stop eating animals!
What? You're not?
Sorry. My mistake. I guess I assume that in every carnivore, there's an herbivore longing to get out (maybe it's one you ate, like a cow or a panda).
I'm hopeful, not messianic. Like I said, it's up to you.
But here's something I don't mind pushing: Next week is San Diego Veg Week (Sept. 25 through Oct. 2). Why not go vegetarian for just seven days? Consider it a little respite from your carnivorous ways— one week of giving farm animals a break, and even letting a few fish off the hook.
This is the Animal Protection and Rescue League's annual invitation to go vegetarian. Think you can do it, San Diego? Think of it as a challenge, like a reverse version of one of those challenges to stuff yourself with hot dogs.
They couldn't make it easier. It's free to take the "pledge to go veg" for one week at sdvegweek.com, and you'll be invited to participate in Veg Week activities, like shopping trips (starting Saturday, Sept. 24), an ice-cream social, nutrition and cooking presentations, movie night and a big celebration for Veg Week participants at the end of your meat-free week. You can also win prizes and get daily email support during Veg Week.
I personally recommend the Sunday, Sept. 25, kick-off ice-cream social: There will be a performance by the inspirational Vegan Vixens, a troop of very sexy entertainers (veganvixens.com) with a pro-animal agenda. Rawr!
That reminds me: I'd like to make a special appeal here to my fellow fellows. You may think your meat consumption makes you a real macho hunter type—that your masculine prowess is rooted in how rare you like your prime rib. Not only could Popeye kick your ass; there are a whole bunch of vegetarian athletes, like nine-time Olympic gold-medal winner Carl Lewis, the powerful vegan track star, who leaves the myth of the weak lettuce-eater in the dust. Lewis not only promotes an animal-free diet; in the book Very Vegetarian, he attributes his athletic success to it.
If that's not enough to convince you guys to give a week of veggieness a try, according to a 1992 study conducted by the Yankelovich research organization and reported in Vegetarian Times, "of the 12.4 million people [in the U.S.] who call themselves vegetarian, 68% are female, while only 32% are male." Dudes, you do the math.
As for non-vegetarian females: Aw, animals are so cute! Little baby cows and piglets! Please don't eat them [sad face]. So—see you at the ice-cream social Sunday?