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 when 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.

 

Veggie Woes

Ask me if I’m vegetarian and I’m not exactly sure what I’ll say on any given day. I try, but I fail as often as I succeed. I think it’s easier to be a vegetarian if you truly don’t like the taste of meat, which is not me. Some meat is really tasty so I have no physical aversion to it.

So I’m not trying to be vegetarian because I look at meat and think, “Ewww, that looks gross.” I’m trying to go vegetarian for ethical reasons and while my intent is strong, my will power is weak. I’m not going to lie; it’s a bit of a struggle. I was raised with meat as a pillar of a balanced diet. The necessity of meat has been drilled into me from a lifetime of food choices. I’m trying to change the patterns I’ve learned over the decades, but it’s hard and I’m far from perfect. Though I am making progress I’m glad to say.

When my resolve does start to cave I like thinking about a dear friend of mine who is a devout vegetarian for spiritual reasons. She believes that every animal has a soul and, by God, you just don’t eat something with a soul. It all seems so simple to her — this kooky no-soul-eating concept — that I just sit back and admire her. Her devotion and conviction are unflappable. I wonder how I can get to be like that. It’s not that I don’t share her beliefs. I’m totally on board with the idea that all animals have souls (I mean, duh), but still, I’m fighting a deeply ingrained sense of eating normalcy from my childhood. Or maybe that’s a cop-out and I’m just weak-willed. Regardless of the reason, I’m trying. I’m trying yet failing which buries me in guilt because I can’t practice what I preach.

Having a somewhat imaginative mind I’ve wondered what would happen if someone lived her entire life 100% meat free and living a spiritually clean life respecting all animals around her until the day some villainous ne’er-do-well slipped a piece of meat in her food without her knowing. Or what if she eats a salad that unbeknownst to her had some meat by-product in it? Whatever the circumstance, the lifetime of being ethically nutritious comes crashing down unexpectedly. Should she be consumed by guilt? Is her soul at risk? Personally, I don’t see how. Shouldn’t it be the true intent and not the accidental act that matters? She still gets a primo seat in the cushy part of the afterlife as far as I’m concerned.

But me? I know exactly what I’m eating when I’m eating it. I know when I have meat on my plate. I can’t plead ignorance. This is perhaps more evidence to add to the ever-growing list as to why I’m going to the fiery underworld after I leave this earth. If you’re interested in perhaps joining my friend in the VIP section of the afterlife, I’d start by reading her blog. She has a quick wit and a real way with words. You won’t be disappointed.

If you want to join me in the afterlife spitfire, go get yourself a Double Down Dog and I’ll see you there.

A Resolution Worth Keeping in this Year of the Horse

 

I know that I made a bit of a fuss in a previous post about how many of us, certainly myself, are going to make some pretty lofty promises to ourselves for the coming year. We’ll then watch those oaths peter out quickly as we scrape together legit justifications that deep down we know are just lame cop outs. “Hey, I’d totally go to the gym if it didn’t look like it was going to rain sometime in the next few hours,” or “That lasagna is healthy. It has a bunch of zucchini in it,” or “I know I was going to cut down on shopping but how can I not buy cashmere at this price?”   We’ll somehow become masters of the impenetrable excuse.

But this year there is one resolution that I will keep. And I know I’ll keep it because it’s something I actually find fulfillment in doing…which is always a plus.  Exercising, dieting, financial responsibility…boring! There is just one resolution I can’t wait to make a reality. Namely, continue to do what I can to make a difference in the well-being of animals. This isn’t a new idea. If you know me you know how passionate I am about animal advocacy, but I am more determined than ever to make a difference in the lives of the creatures we share the world with.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of evil in the world and a shocking number of people are all too willing to exploit or destroy animals; animals who, frankly deserve better. I mean, for god’s sake, dog fighting is still an industry! Can you believe people engage in that?  Not to mention the continued slaughter of our horses.  Don’t even get me started on that one because I could talk your ear off….and none of it pleasant.

Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many small ways to contribute that can and will add up to a big difference. This is both a terrible and an uplifting thought. The great thing is that becoming more deeply involved won’t be hard and I’ll be welcomed with open arms (as would anyone who wants to help). The depressing part is that the only reason it’s so easy to join in on such a worthwhile cause is because there are so many acts of cruelty being done out there.

Yes, this resolution is one I can’t help but feel good about and who knows?  Maybe it will end up being contagious. 

Not to be a complete contradiction I am also going to try harder at the whole vegetarian thing. Yes, yes, I know I’ve stumbled in the past, but hey, it’s a new year and that’s the whole point of these resolutions, right?  Let’s start fresh and make those changes we want to see.  And this change is something I’m very determined to make within myself so it’s a goal I know won’t fall by the wayside.   I hope you stick with me as I work on this one.  I’ll share my successes and my failures.  It will keep me honest and provide motivation….as if I needed more motivation. 

So bring on 2014!  The Year of the Horse, yes!

 

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Artwork by the very talented Susan Monty
(click photo to visit her site)