I am a born-again vegetarian.
Before my conversion to the vegetarian lifestyle a short eighteen months ago, I was the standard omnivorous jerk that I now put up with on an almost daily basis. I often taunted my little sister (a vegetarian for about five years now) by asking if she wanted a piece of my meat du jour, waving a it on my fork in front of her face. I wasn’t a bad person, but this is the kind of action that really gets my goat (so to speak) as a vegetarian today.
Now pretend that I was an atheist, performing an analogous bit of teasing to a devoutly Christian sister; surely I’d have been punished by my parents for discriminating against her faith. My meat-related mocking, in comparison, went unchecked.
Briefly consider the phrasing of my first sentence: “born-again vegetarian.” I’m drawing a comparison between being born again into religion and being born again into any new lifestyle that changes the way that you think, the way that you feel, the way that you make choices -in this case, a vegetarian lifestyle. As a vegetarian, my views on many issues have changed, from the environment to euthanasia, animal rights to cannibalism. I am, aside from being physically healthier, spiritually and intellectually more fulfilled than my omnivorous counterpart.
In my first year of high school, I met a new friend who happened to be a Christian. Before he realized the futility of his actions, he tried to convert me to the way of the pew: “I don’t want to be in heaven for all eternity without my best friend,” he pleaded. And there’s the difference between being a Christian and being a vegetarian. While both parties may attempt to convert others to their way of doing and thinking (which is, of course, the “right” way), the motivation behind Christianity is always going to be saving yourself. Convert others and you’ll go to heaven. After all, Jesus died for your sins (you sinning bastard!).
Being a vegetarian is about saving others. It’s about the little guy, the underdog (or, in some cases, the actual dog). By not supporting industries that profit from the deaths of animals, you’re sparing the lives of animals that would otherwise have been born to be killed before they had the chance to live a fraction of their natural lifespan. It’s the inverse of the Christian situation; to be a born-again vegetarian is about constantly sacrificing your old ways in favour of new ones that are less selfish. Jesus doesn’t make the sacrifice on your behalf (what a sweet deal that would be!).
Here’s a little added incentive to help you make the leap: a study at the University of Chicago determined that the elimination of animal products from one’s diet reduces their annual carbon dioxide emissions by a whopping 1.5 tons. Compared to switching to a hybrid car, which gets rid of 1.5 tons, it’s an easier, more significant and less expensive way to reduce climate change so that future generations can enjoy the planet sans gas masks and UV 5000 sunblock.
Regardless of age, nearly everyone seems to be viciously anti-vegetarian to the point of discrimination. Progressive, secular members of society are willing to buck tradition when it comes to the threat of eternal damnation, but comparatively few are willing to spare the lives of innocent animals in order to avoid eating unfamiliar foods (like… gasp… vegetables!). The act of eating meat has become so normalized in our society that we scarcely stop to think of the horror of it all. As Plutarch, the Greek essayist once wrote: “You ask me why I refuse to eat flesh. I, for my part, am astonished that you can put in your mouth the corpse of a dead animal, astonished that you do not find it nasty to chew hacked flesh and swallow the juices of death wounds.”
Mull it over a while. Do some reading on the topic. Be born again. At the very least, get your damn fork out of my face.