Today marks my 43rd anniversary as a vegetarian. Turkey Day was the perfect day to reject an idea that had literally been spoon-fed to me but had worn out its welcome in my conscience: it is OK (delicious even) to kill animals.
My nickname in college was “Veggie” because there were so few of us around that I was a bit of a novelty. I was the only one in our dorm. If it seems like we are less of a rarity these days, there is some data to back it up. According to a Gallup poll taken last year only 2% of Americans over 55 (that’s my group) are vegetarians. Among those aged 35-54, the figure is 7%, and for 18-34 year olds it’s up to 8%.
Vegetarianism has brought many benefits into my life. I believe I am healthier than I would be if I had been eating meat all these years. Although my health played zero part in my decision to stop eating animals it is a nice unintended consequence. I never found meat tempting once I stopped seeing animals as food.
The greatest benefit though was this important lesson that I was fortunate to learn at such an impressionable age: People don’t need to see things the way I do for me to like, love, or even admire them. It is a lesson that we need sorely to learn in these polarized times. Virtually all of my dearest friends and family – then and now – are carnivores. Even though I believe that eating meat is immoral, I don’t believe that people who eat meat are behaving immorally. Their morality is different from mine, neither superior nor inferior.
Today I give thanks for that piece of wisdom.
I think that at some point in the future, probably a few centuries from now, people will look at eating the flesh and wearing the skin of animals the way we look at slavery now and the way we are finally starting to look at white supremacy and patriarchy.
Happy Turkey Day everyone!