A Push for Flexible Morality

If you have five minutes to spare, I invite you to read this article.

Don’t worry. I’ll wait…

Okay, are you back? Good, because I have a lot to say on the topic. But you knew that, right? If you didn’t get to read the article, the long and short of it is that vegetarians shouldn’t beat themselves up with they decide to have a pork chop or two when amongst friends – in fact, they should feel obligated to do so just to show others that veganism and vegetarianism is “flexible.” You know, to make people comfortable around it…and therefore low-key encouraging others to give part-time vegetarianism a try.

There are so many things wrong with the author’s position in this article. Just at the surface, I find the concept of vegetarians being encouraged, nay, guilted into breaking their own moral code for the sake of others to be so misguided. From the article: “So the vegetarian guest eating meat when offered has probably shown the host that it is possible to be a (flexible) vegetarian and, at the same time, occasionally enjoy some meat without feeling guilty.” In reality, could doing so inspire others to adopt the vegetarian lifestyle if they see that it’s not such a rigid or strict discipline? Doubtful. Like with most things in life, people eat what they eat for a reason and they will change their lifestyle only when they’re ready and for reasons of their own, not because they saw a vegetarian breaking their own personal code of ethics at that dinner party last week.

My own response to this article?  It is NOT the guest’s job to convince the host or any other guest to become vegetarian, nor is it their obligation to be flexible in order to show that others can eat less meat while still maintaining a sort-of, kind-of vegetarian lifestyle.

I feel the article gives a negative portrayal of vegetarians, assuming every one of them brings a soapbox to stand on wherever they go because it’s their civic duty to coax people over to their side. But I can only really speak for myself. Do I wish people would eat less meat (or no meat at all)? Yes. Do I tell them to eat that way? No. They’re adults. They can make up their own minds on what they want to eat. But if someone is curious and asks me about vegetarianism, I’m more than happy to give them information as to why that particular diet appeals to me.

But it’s not my job to show others that vegetarianism can be flexible and therefore “easier” to the masses. Why should a vegetarian anyone be forced or encouraged or guilted into doing something that makes them physically, mentally, and emotionally ill — and is contrary to everything they believe in — just to show someone else it can be done?

To me, what should’ve been addressed is the host’s lack of manners for forgetting the dietary restrictions of a guest they presumably like and respect enough to ask to dinner. In case you didn’t read the article, the whole point that started this conversation was that the fictitious host and/or hostess forgot their guest was a vegetarian and therefore gave them a pork chop to eat. I also find it odd that out of all the meats out there in the world, they chose pork chops. But I digress.

Back to the whole “flexibility” thing…every vegetarian and vegan has their own reason for choosing that kind of diet, not least of which is to do their part in ending animal suffering. Contrary to all the jokes and memes out there, this is not a trivial reason. Some people are vegetarians for religious reasons. Does the author expect flexibility when it’s for religious reasons? Or is it only when it’s for other, non-religious, reasons? I wasn’t aware that morals were flexible, or rather, that it’s not a big deal if they are flexible. I mean, basically, the writer is asking a vegetarian to be flexible in their morals just to be polite to a host.

Then, the writer tells vegetarians to take heart in the decision to go against their beliefs and strongly held “code of ethics” because it could — could, mind you — have the positive effect of showing others that vegetarianism can be do-able for those who still want to eat meat sometimes. That’s a hell of a lot of responsibility for one person who simply does not eat meat, if you ask me.

Show and tell on the part of a dinner guest is not and should not be necessary to get this point across and I think it’s appalling to expect otherwise.