Victoria Jelinek


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

Addendum to the piece, below

“Only I can change my life, no one can do it for me.” Carol Burnett

I actually began doing research on the environmental effects of eating meat shortly after writing this piece, and in September of 2016 I reduced my eat consumption by 90%. In essence, while I still am hurt and irritated by the people who were combatively proselytizing (& just being plain mean), I have since evolved and changed my ways…

That said, I will keep this post up as evidence of my previous ignorance and petulance on the subject…

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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The Baby Diaries – 12

Never go on trips with anyone you do not love. Ernest Hemingway

coach class on an airplaneWhen my boy turned six months old we decided that he was old enough to make the big trip to the west coast of the USA for a visit with my family. Life a good Frenchwoman, I utilised the healthcare services before leaving: I took my boy to the doctor to confirm everything was okay, particularly the ears, I have problems with my ears, too; got a few ‘in case’ prescriptions, then went to the chemist and bought saline solution for the boy’s nose, Doliprane for any pain or fever, cortisone cream for any skin irritations, and his regular creams and soaps. Luckily, my husband went to the US with me. I could not have done this trip alone.

Before boarding the plane in Geneva, we cleared the boy’s nose and gave him Paracetimal to help him relax. When the plane descended, I nursed him to help prevent pain in his ears from altitude pressure changes. It was the long-haul flight out of London that was rough. In the first instance, the airline provides either a cot or a little seat for the baby to have on take off and landing. Our boy was too big for the cot and the seat made him sit up and therefore not get comfortable for sleep. All around us babies and toddlers slept, but not our boy. By the end of ten hours, he was fussy and folks on the airplane kept giving us dirty looks as though we were pinching him. By the 12th hour of flying, I was about ready to pull my hair out.

Shortly after arriving in the US and settling into my family home, the boy came down with a fever. He was listless, hot, and clung to me as a baby monkey clings to its mother. We decided to visit a doctor and were only able to see a paediatrician because my nephew has been going to him for ten years and recommended us to him (really). The doctor told us that our boy had had an ear infection before the flight (?), which had worsened during the flight, now necessitating a ten-day round of antibiotics. We followed his instructions. Ten days later, my boy was not much better and we only had another few days before making the flight back to France. Should we cancel? We booked another appointment with the paediatrician who advised that he be given a strong dose of antibiotics shot into each of his little thighs.

The hardest thing for me was that I had gone to the doctor’s office without my mother and without my husband The doctor told me that, as the next level of antibiotic, an injected antibiotic, would be very strong, it would be best if I stayed at his office under supervision for an hour to make sure that there is not an epileptic fit, seizure, or heart attack (?!). I was terrified. I desperately tried to call my husband at my mother’s to consult him, but he was not picking up. I then tried to get my mother’s attention in the car outside where she sat waiting for us to leave, in order to get some advice and encouragement, but the doors to the clinic were closed and she did not see or hear me. I made the decision alone to do it. The two nurses came into the room while he was laying calmly on his back with his little legs in the air. They put on blue plastic gloves and held up the shots. At this moment, he realised something was wrong. They simultaneously gave him the injections in each of his little thighs and he began screaming. Afterwards, I took him to my breast in order to nurse him and calm him down. It was the very first time he bit me, which hurt and caused me to cry out, but I figured it was fair. I sat worried and alone with my little person that whole hour, wondering whether I’d done the right thing. Worried that his body would reject it. Worried that his ears would not be better for the flight back and he’d be in so much pain or he’d go deaf.

The flight back was gruesome. He did not sleep, and I was in a chair that had a broken armrest and video. But we got back to France. My boy did not go deaf. The infection was cured. The French doctors told me that it was best to have given him the injections, that it was not the Americans’ being overzealous about the administration of antibiotics.

It will be a year before I make that trip again.