Friday, August 31, 2012

Maybe vegans ARE better than me

photo lifted from
NPR's recent story, "Do Vegetarians and Vegans Think They Are Better Than Everyone Else?" reminded me of other articles that have discussed a possible link between vegetarianism/veganism and self-righteousness. I think people who love animals and don't eat them enjoy a simpler philosophy of life than those of us who love and eat animals. We meat-eaters can make the argument that all creatures eat something else and there's nothing wrong with doing what it takes to survive, but shouldn't we humans hold ourselves to a higher standard of non-killing?

It comes down to whether your moral beliefs include valuing animals. The bible tells us not to kill each other, but is full of animal sacrifice. Other religions believe all life is sacred. Is veganism part of homo sapien evolution to a more spiritual form? I actually think it could be, but we have a long way to go to evolve from needing to consume animals. There is the vitamn B-12 problem, after all (the human body requires vitamin B-12, but it's only found in live organisms and their byproducts).

Right now veganism isn't practical for a lot of people who need what we get from animal products. We notice that we get light-headed and hungry without animal protein and have better energy when we eat it. In the spiritual evolution of the human species, maybe we meat-dependent will die off, leaving only those who truly thrive on vegetation and have evolutionarily gotten around the B-12 problem. Maybe the world will be a better place when only animals are eating each other.

But back to the question of whether vegetarians and vegans think of themselves as better than everyone else. Who cares? We all have our reasons for thinking we're better than everyone else. It's often about religious beliefs or income or education. Sometimes it's about how many children someone has or what kind of clothes they're wearing. My question is do vegans or vegetarians talk about nutritional superiority enough to bug the rest of us?

I guess they do or we animal chompers wouldn't be asking the question. But another possibility is that we bone-gnawers just get touchy when we see someone choosing not to eat what we're eating. We often ask why someone isn't eating meat and then start a conversation about it unilaterally. This happens with alcohol, too. I often don't drink and have no desire to talk about it, but if everyone's drinking except me, people think I'm judging them. My abstinence makes them uncomfortable and then we're talking about it when I didn't mean to. Skin-suckers might similarly be feeling our own guilt and insecurity about whether or not we are eating well, and this comes up when we see someone eating in a way that we fear might be morally better. We project our hostility on the non-meat-eater and there we are, imagining that they're judging us.

We gristle grinders associate vegetarians and vegans with people who don't quite have their feet on the ground, who make up their own rules and threaten the status quo. We feel defensive when someone actually does inititate a discussion about the problems of a meat-based diet, not because they have the power to take our burgers away but because how we eat is tied to our personal beliefs as much as religion. Anyone else talking about how we should do it feels offensive and we want to say "keep it to yourselves, people."

And yet I totally understand the desire to recruit people to your way of thinking. No one's more self-righteous than I am, only I prefer to eat slowly rotting flesh. For those who believe the world really is dying because we eat so much meat, they're on an honest crusade that comes from a sense of responsibility for the state of the planet. They're trying to do their part for all the other species: flora, fauna and Fido.

I believe that ideally we would each tune in to our bodies and eat the most nutritious diet that makes us feel the healthiest. We'd choose only food that supports our peaceful digestion, full energy, good mood and deep sleep at night. If we were all committed to listening to our bodies that way, we could leave morality out of the whole food question. I'd eat meat because it makes me feel healthier while another wouldn't eat meat because that makes her feel healthier, and we wouldn't have to talk about it.

But we're Americans and we tend to turn innocent topics into a moral battle. We feel criticized by someone simply living her life in a different way. Nutrition has become the new religion/politics: it's right up there in strong feelings and emotional reactions. I don't feel like vegans or vegetarians are trying to recruit (or redeem) me, but I actually do believe my life would be more supportive of all species and the planet itself, if I cut down on the corpses I consume. Unfortunately, my body doesn't do well without animal protein. I accept that those who don't eat animals might be more spiritually evolved than I am because they can put the planet's needs ahead of personal ones, but I just can't switch my priorities like that. This makes me and a vegan similar to a layperson Catholic and a nun: I admire her commitment to beliefs that I'd like to support 100%, but I just don't have it in me to commit on the same level as she does.

I can't say vegetarians and vegans are more self-righteous about food than I am, but this animal-swallower believes it's possible that they really do have more reason to be.

As I re-read this post it seems disjointed and weird. Please someone comment and let me know if this even makes sense to them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It makes sense to me, and no-- I don't feel your words are disjointed. It's a humorous look at how us humans need to be "right", and how hard it is to change, even if we believe another way is better. Thanks you.