Victoria Jelinek


Entreaty to Herbivores
June 15, 2016, 6:32 am
Filed under: From the Soap Box | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

To my recently converted vegan eating friends,

plaice_16x9Congratulations on your vegan diet! I’m glad that you’ve found something that you want to do to help the environment and your general health. I’m pleased that you’re contributing to the overall welfare of the collective. Really I am.

But even though I’m super happy for you, I get upset when you talk about your vegan diet and put down meat eaters as barbaric dimwits. I’m a meat eater. But you know that – we’ve had Sunday Roasts together. While it’s arguable that I’m a dimwit, I don’t believe I’m barbaric and cruel. And what about the golden rule? You’re treating animals better than I may, but you’re putting me down in the process of justifying your diet. I might evolve from my place lower than you on the evolutionary chain, but your lectures and accusatory tone may prompt me to crawl right back into the water, leaving my shell on the shore.

Last week alone I suffered three separate people in Chamonix Valley who have recently made this lifestyle change, proselytizing to me about veganism. Each of them explicitly and implicitly told me that if I continue to eat meat I don’t care two shits for the environment, about other living creatures, or my own body. I didn’t engage in argument. I mean, I don’t really care about my own body, and I should given that I’m aging and that’s a horrendous process…I tried to let it ‘roll off of my back’ and not to let my eyes glaze over, attributing their antagonism to early zeal, but the third novitiate made me angry (and hurt, if I’m to be honest): I ran into this friend in the parking lot of the primary school and excitedly mentioned that my husband and I are replacing our very old car with a hybrid. He told me in a flat, contentious voice, “You should become a Vegan if you really want to help the environment.” While I stumbled a bit with a reply, muttering “Oh, gee…um…” he immediately suggested, “You could stop commuting to Geneva for work.” As I scratched my head to figure out a polite way to stop this conversation, he rapid-fire-suggested, “You could stop visiting your family and wasting jet fuel.” I spluttered a “Oh. My. Well now…” Without hesitation, he went on to tell me that the “best” thing I could do (in addition to the aforementioned) was to keep the old car on the road and not cause the industry and subsequent pollution that happens with the creation of a new car. That I wasn’t serious about the environment if I’m unwilling to do the previously stated things. Awkward. I think I said something innocuous and superficial like, “Oh…well…okay. Then I’ll see you around,” and drove off with the belt of my coat stuck in the car door.

These interactions prompt me to write this letter now. I feel that I must justify my existence as a meat eater. And while I risk being a hypocrite ‘cause I’m now exhorting you, the reader, to my cause, and being defensive to boot, I’m also brave for defending my meat-eating ways which may, in the end, just reinforce the idea that I am a selfish, negligent nitwit who would sooner sacrifice kittens than give up something that pleases me.

So here goes:

My name is Victoria. And I’m a meat eater.

I wasn’t a big meat eater to begin with. We weren’t rich when I was a child and so we ate all kinds of awful meats that I wouldn’t touch, such as plaice, beef tongue, liver and pig’s feet. As a young adult in charge of my own dietary acquisitions, I found that I preferred to spend my money on drugs and entertainment. Granted, I did eat the odd slice of pepperoni pizza, but I can most definitely not be called a savage meat eater through most of the late 80’s and all of the 90’s. As a bona fide adult (meaning I pay my taxes, got married – again – am responsible for raising a child, pay my bills on time and don’t piss off my employers) I do eat more meat. But that’s primarily because I’m eating

three squares (or at least two) and it’s hard not to eat meat whilst still having a relatively diverse diet. Also, my son would never eat if he didn’t eat meat. Or at least he’d only eat starch and carbohydrates. (And don’t say that’s ‘cause we’ve allowed him to eat what he wants. That we’ve spoiled him. That we haven’t starved him enough. Short of tying him up with gaffer tape and administrating vegetables and fruits intravenously, we’ve tried everything).

I’m still making excuses for my addiction, I know, but we don’t consume a lot at home. And what we do eat is locally sourced. I know the animals I eat are still hung upside down, scared, and killed and that’s horrific, but I do spend the money and take the time to buy the meat in which the creature was at least allowed to enjoy their lives to that point. And, hopefully, in their nicer environments they were also spoken to softly and humanely as they were slaughtered. But I don’t think it’s fair to say I’m cruel to living creatures because I eat meat. I sign petitions to stop cruelty to animals. I support The World Wildlife Federation and National Geographic with annual cash donations. I pet wet, smelly dogs, including my own. I’ve taken in the neighborhood stray. But there I go justifying my behavior. The fact is, I like it. Especially the salty ones that originate from pig. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but it sucks to feel judged and admonished about my meat eating ways and I don’t like it one bit. Please let me hit my own ‘bottom’ and reach the decision to stop eating it (and the rest) on my own.

This does not mean I’m not concerned about the state of the world. I’m deeply troubled by the world today, to the extent that it makes it hard for me to be happy at all with the myriad of global problems. My predisposition to neurosis is on overdrive these days, what with Trump, Brexit, Turkey, the Middle East, French strikes, mass shootings, environmental calamity, desertification, unfair wealth distribution, terrorism, human trafficking, the body’s resistance to antibiotics, etc. etc. It keeps me up at night. Seriously. Unless I take a pill (but now they’re prescribed, so that’s okay, right?).

With regard to the environment, I may not be a vegan, but I do many small things throughout every day in an effort to help save our planet:

  • We never dry our clothes in a dryer even though I really miss soft towels and jeans.
  • We don’t run water while we’re brushing our teeth, and my husband is a total soap dodger, so that’s water saved, too.
  • We don’t flush after each pee, adhering to the saying, “if it’s yellow, keep it mellow…”
  • We recycle, and flatten all the boxes and bottles.
  • We car share to the school most mornings (and we’ve attempted to involve two additional neighborhood families whose children go to the same place at the same time, to no avail, and despite their lamentations about environmental calamity…).
  • We don’t use harmful detergents and cleaners, even as I really miss the smell of Ariel.
  • As mentioned, our new car is a hybrid, and despite the fact that it’s just weird looking.
  • As mentioned, I didn’t eat much of anything through my childhood and into my adult years.
  • I spent most of my adult life without being the owner of a car, living in cities with true mass transit capabilities. That counts for something (How many of you can say the same?).

Yes, I’m flawed. I eat meat. I like it. I also eat gluten. And I eat dairy. I suffer a cheese belly due to my penchant for the stuff. I love milk in my coffee. I enjoy omelets and quiche (I’m getting hungry). Even as I’m still adapting and shaping my philosophy of the world, it’s not likely that I will convert to veganism anytime soon. I would like to do more to help. To have a big garden in which my husband grows vegetables and fruit, perhaps he’d even keep a few bees, but he’s busy at the moment earning money to put some kind of food on our table.

These recent conversations with these vegan disciples have left me disturbed and suspicious. Each person’s eye had the shine of a zealot. The imparting of their vegan information the air of proselytizing. The sudden popularity and timely coincidence suggests a fad. Growing up on the West Coast of the USA in the 1970’s, I met all kinds of charlatans who were apostles of Buddhism, Lao Tzu, Pluralism, Karma, Chakras, and astrology, with various accompanying diets, revered stones and/or crystals, yoga practices, and exercise regiments. Later, they became dot-commers and venture capitalists that “do” yoga and Pilates as part of their social role and follow folks on Twitter who practice “mindfulness” and positivity. These recent conversations with these vegan followers here remind me of home and those good old days…

But let’s get back to my central point – what’s up with the preaching and shaming? I have many old friends who are deeply devoted vegetarians. And a couple of vegans are among them. They don’t attempt to persuade me to their ideologies or make me feel bad about my own lifestyle choices. Perhaps they’ve lost their enthusiasm and it’s just a way of life. Perhaps they’ve ascertained that I’m a lost cause. Perhaps it’s ‘cause they know that I’m not a conspicuous consumer. That I’m not one of the bad guys.

Before my dad died, I used to frequently call him up after I’d watch the evening news (from any time zone), crying over the state of the world. In addition to the news, I’d be upset with the broadcasting itself, too, and what it implied about the world and its state of affairs also. My dad, a political activist, would always tell me: “Model the life you’d like. Try to live faithfully to your spirit and your values. Believe that the micro will affect the macro. Remember humor. And live and let live with critical insight, but not fast judgment.”

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8 Comments so far
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Sorry that you are being judged. I’m vegetarian (for 23 years now) but keep my opinions to myself 🙂 I think everyone should just do the best they can, based on their own values, and not get involved in other people’s business!

Comment by violetannie63

Thank you for reading the piece and for being so non judgemental!
To be honest, and as I note near the end, most of my vegetarian friends have never bothered me about my habits…

Comment by victoriakjelinek

I’m sorry you feel judged. Did you know that:

Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.

Livestock covers 45% of the earth’s total land.

1/3 of the planet is desertified, with livestock as the leading drive

Every minute, 7 million pounds of excrement are produced by animals raised for food in the US.

We could see fishless oceans by 2048.

Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction.

82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries.

Land required to feed 1 person for 1 year:

Vegan: 1/6th acre

Vegetarian: 3x as much as a vegan

Meat Eater: 18x as much as a vegan

1.5 acres can produce 37,000 pounds of plant-based food.
1.5 acres can produce 375 pounds of meat.

A person who follows a vegan diet produces the equivalent of 50% less carbon dioxide, uses 1/11th oil, 1/13th water, and 1/18th land compared to a meat-lover for their food.

Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life.

So. My name is Egglantine, and I feel sad that the world is going to end because meat eaters just can’t get their heads out of the sand. I guess if you are going to keep killing animals for the heck of it, causing children to starve, destroying the forests and the oceans, you may have to put up with a little bit of whining from us: the people who want to take care of it all.

Comment by egglantine

I want you to know that I stopped eating meat in October in an effort to try to help the heating up of the earth. While I still stand by my belief that one should not harangue, bully, or badger another to change their habits/views, etc, I appreciate your passion and your effort to conserve our planet and its animals.

Comment by victoriakjelinek

You just gotta do what you can I think. Unless you get given godlike powers you’re unlikely to fix the world yourself.

As an aside; the next time The Rude Vegan spouts off while waiting at school you could point out to him that the NUMBER 1 thing he could do to save the world would be go home and kill his child. Until he’s done that he’s pointing out the sawdust in your eye while ignoring the tree in his.
(And yes I realise you also have a child – but I’m not judging that just loading up your blunderbuss).

Comment by Pete

I am in TOTAL agreement with your comment (and it made me chuckle, so thanks for that) – population control is not something folks like to discuss, but it is the glaring problem in the world (and its the reason we have only one!).

Comment by victoriakjelinek

Some of us don’t eat animals because we don’t want them killed and we love them as much as we love our dogs and cats and other pets. So strangely enough, it is hurtful when people talk about eating them because “they taste good”. And yet these people they will sign lots of petitions about cruelty to animals they keep as pets – all while happily continuing to inflict it on certain animals designated as “livestock” (another trick of language to stop you having feelings and to compartmentalise the violence so you don’t have to face it).
When I get invited to a pig roast, or a BBQ – I literally feel like you would feel if you were going to a roasting of your own dog or child … (or mine). I have had a vegetarian invite me to a pig roast. She married a meat eater. She got freaked out at my refusal to go to it. She somehow could not see the reason for my feelings. It astounded me, but it should not have – she still compartmentalises. I still do to an extent since I can even tolerate living with people who eat meat.
People who eat meat get used to compartmentalising their lives to a very high degree, and rationalising their immoral choices – thinking of dead animals as anything other than a dead animal. Not labelling what they eat as someone’s body, but as “meat” or as some “cut” (like a “steak” or a “porterhouse” or “sirloin” or “bacon” … something unrelated to a previously alive, thinking feeling breathing sweet sentient animal who had friends, children and a social life).
So for me – it’s all about that. Even if it was MORE polluting to not eat meat, I’d still be vegan because I think it’s utterly immoral to eat another thinking, feeling being and because meat is not necessary for me or any other human to stay alive.
It’s because I feel hurt every single day by nearly every meal in every restaurant I see come out of the kitchen. I can’t imagine how or why people want to kill and eat animals yet can keep pets in their homes and talk about how much they love them and mourn for their passing the way they do – yet not see a parallel in every cow they see in a field.
I don’t think my tastebuds can justify ending someone else’s life. I find it barbaric and cruel indeed to eat meat. I do judge meat eaters every day including the one I am married to. Obviously I have many friends who eat meat as well.
Yes, I am conflicted about that, and it makes me horribly depressed. But if I didn’t have them around, I would be very lonely because so few people are vegan. That is all. I don’t feel I can fully relate to most people because of this. I am a misanthrope.
Appreciate for a minute what it’s like living as someone who has given up all pretences of the artificial separation of animals into “those we eat” and “those we keep in our homes” that society taught us. Once you give that up and start seeing reality, it’s impossible to enjoy eating meat. Go to a slaughter house and see for yourself. But most people will not even watch a video of one. It hurts them too much to see. But then meat is convenient and they keep eating it. Because it’s “normal” to murder.
Every day makes me sad to be alive in this society for this and so many more reasons.
Sorry you feel uncomfortable about being faced with some real facts, and then feeling guilty to the point where you feel your back is up against the wall and find it necessary to justify your meat eating with things like how it tastes and a child’s refusal to eat (by the way, carbohydrates are fine to eat and gluten or not gluten has nothing to do with being vegan).
For me – it’s not about you or any other person. It’s about all the animals we are killing. And the planet we are killing.
I would stop worrying about how to “get back at” the few vegans that exist, and just start thinking about why you feel the need to defend yourself so much from their ways of thinking.
I guess this is a long way of saying – methinks thou dost protest too much.
I think you know they are right, and you don’t like the uncomfortable truth, it would bring too much change and conflict into your life, you are afraid of that etc. etc. etc..
But the problem is not the vegans.
The problem is that what they are saying is irrefutably correct. Animals do have feelings, societies, languages and are sentient beings. The planet is being destroyed by our enslavement of them and mass murder of them on a daily basis.
I think the guy with the car analogies was over the top and stupid – especially to try to confront you in the car park of a school. Yet what he was saying was not incorrect, just ineffective because who is he going to convince in that way ? Very few people.
I personally think that most vegans who only think about “the planet” to become vegan will not be vegan in 5 years. If someone invents a “planet friendly” way to kill cows and pigs, they’ll be happy to go along with it. I can only hope that before that time comes, they will start to see why it’s also morally wrong to eat animals, from the animal’s point of view.

Comment by musingsofabittergirl

Some good points, and in case I didn’t read them carefully enough the first time, they were repeated. Thank you for taking the time to write a comment – I do appreciate it.
And I appreciate that you’re caring for the animals eaten in the world. I also hope that despite your misanthropy, your passionate concern extends to the calamities happening to vulnerable people also (Middle East being bombed to rubble, refugee children without homes/safety, racism, Xenophobia, sexism, mutilation and trafficking of people, income inequality, hunger in the first world, etc).

Comment by victoriakjelinek




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