I’ve been a dedicated carnivore for most of my life. For me, vegetables equaled potatoes. Fruits equaled whatever I could pour out of a juice jug. And vegetarians? Oh, when I was in school, I’m sure I had read about them in a book somewhere, at some point. Then at some point, as my spiritual and religious outlooks began to change, I found myself offering a prayer of thanks before all meals to the spirits of the animals I was getting ready to eat. I would close my eyes, visualize the animals, and thank them for having given their lives, so that I and my loved ones might live another day. This made me feel better about things for a long time.
Skip a longer period of time than I’d care to admit to, and we find ourselves in more recent times. My visualization has started to change of its own volition. It used to be, for example, if I would consume beef or dairy, I would visualize a cow on a fresh, green pasture with decent weather and a mouthful of fresh grass. Nowadays, I’m seeing a cow that has
lived existed in a state of suffering and filth, that has never known any sense of freedom. I see the fear in its eyes shortly before it enters the slaughter house. No one has put this imagery in my mind, nothing that I can tell has ‘sparked’ it – it just seems to have changed on its own.
This imagery is disturbing to me. While my gratitude to the spirits of the animals I’m eating is still very sincere, it’s difficult for me to reconcile this imagery with the pleasure I feel at the scents, tastes and textures of the meal sitting before me. Essentially, I can’t escape the notion that I’m taking pleasure from suffering on a mass scale … this doesn’t sit well with me, and now I’m giving serious thought to breaking away from eating meat.
I’ve done plenty of reading on this over the past days. It seems the general consensus involves a gradual reduction, and there are various options available: ovo-lacto-pesca vegetarianism (or some derivative thereof), flexi, and veganism. I’m actually inclined to go cold ‘turkey,’ I don’t normally do well with the gradual approach: either I’m doing something, or I’m not doing something. Although I never had a problem with alcohol, when I decided putting poison into my body was no way to celebrate, I gave it up right then and there. When I quit smoking after ten years of smoking over a pack a day – also a part of the anti-poison kick, as well as resenting the fact that the addiction to cigarettes was robbing me of the control over my mind that I was steadily growing more interested in having – this was also an all-at-once effort. I’m still taking more time to research all of this, I want to be certain that this is the decision I need to make before I make it, because I know once I’ve made the decision I won’t back down from it. The only exception that I won’t part with is honey. I routinely purchase honey from someone locally, who owns his own bee hives, and can be trusted when he says that his bees are free to go where they choose and live a fairly happy and normal bee sort of life. The honey has no additives. It also helps that this man is a doctor with a successful career – the beekeeping is his hobby, and he doesn’t need to make money with cheap harvesting and manufacturing practices.
What I have spent the most time reading so far are the following Internet resources:
“Vegetarian diet: How to get the best nutrition,” from the Mayo Clinic
“Becoming a Vegetarian,” from TeensHealth (even if my teenage years ended while Bill Clinton was still thought to be a faithful husband, the information here still seems sound)
“Why Go Vegetarian or Vegan,” from Vegetarian Times
I’d be very interested in reader input on this topic: are any of you vegetarians or vegans? Were you at one point fanatical about eating meat, or were you already somewhat indifferent toward meat eating before making the switch? If you were a fanatic about eating meat at one point, how did you deal with the cravings?