I told her the tortillas had no eggs in them. Then I realized that was only a guess on my part. What if I was wrong? She didn’t seem too sure either. But she reached for a tortilla.
She explained why her Vedic diet disallowed meat.
“Is it the same in your religion?”
“No,” I said. There are similarities between Hinduism and Western polytheism, but that isn’t one of them. “We believe it’s natural to eat meat.”
We stopped dating.
Vegetarianism is billed as a moral choice. It’s not.
If your religion says to be vegetarian, you have my respect and support. But this is like keeping Kosher or Halal: it’s based on customs or rules, and it’s not morally better. There is nothing particularly meritorious about killing more plants and less animals.
All living creatures want to survive. They will fight for their lives. This is true from the smallest microbe to the oldest oak to our fellow mammals. We all take from other living beings in order to survive, and all of us seek to avoid being killed in turn.
Plants do it too. They release chemical signals when they’re under distress, to warn other plants. Those other plants adjust how they use their resources to try to survive whatever killed the guy next to them. No one wants to die.
This is not to say it’s unethical to eat plants: it isn’t. But plants too struggle to avoid harm and death, and in their own way they fight it. Is there “fear” or “pain” in that? We don’t know. But no matter how we source our food we will have to kill our fellow living beings.
This is natural, and it’s right.
Humans are evolved to eat a small amount of meat in a primarily fruit and vegetable diet. I was vegetarian for many years until I went to live with hunter gatherers. I had no choice but to eat like them. One day I ate fly eggs, another day I ate a turtle foot. Most days it was greens and nuts. I learned three things:
- Reducing my intake of carbs did more for my health than years of vegetarianism
- A small meat intake had important and positive effects on my body
- It is possible to treat animals with reverence and respect even when killing them
When I returned to civilization, my old all-vegetarian diet seemed as contrived as a junk food diet. It was only possible because of a huge amount of staple carbs, and because of highly processed foods.
But there were at least two other reasons to be vegetarian: animal cruelty and the environment. I take these seriously. If you pride yourself on eating meat I sure hope you’re buying organic and free-range. Treating animals humanely is not only more ethical, it also mitigates the most serious environmental harm that large-scale meat operations wreak on the environment.
Nowadays less than 10% of my diet is meat. Eating too much of it has serious health risks; it’s as unnatural as vegetarianism. Most of the time I find myself not wanting meat at all, but the occasional urge signals something from my body and I trust it.
It was easy to become vegetarian. It neither improved nor ruined my health. Going omnivore was harder, because we’re given an inaccurate message that it’s wrong or unspiritual.