Oh, You Eat Meat? Please, Feel Free To Berate Me.

I have been some version of vegan/vegetarian/pescatarian for the last six years. I do have personal beliefs and I don’t wish to push them on anyone. However, the number of times I have had unsolicited accusations, arguments, and insults related to my dietary choices far outweigh the number of times I’ve seen anyone go vegan-nazi on a meat eater. It’s completely unfair to claim the burden of silence rests on someone whose basic intentions (one would hope), is to decrease suffering.

I have known many militant vegans. Some of them are my best friends. I get just as annoyed as the meat eating population when they cast judgments on other people for their food choices. What Ms. Fagan has essentially done is cast her own judgments on people who choose a different lifestyle, and subsequently claim that if they don’t agree with her own, that they should just STFU about it.

She claims that posting pictures of produce on the internet is just another way for vegetarians to reinforce their elite morals on the rest of the population. How insensitive of someone to be excited about vegetables when so many people live in “food deserts”! Being excited about veggies represents way more entitlement than posting a picture of bacon-wrapped fried fois gras nuggets dipped in brie. Those are totally available at the 7-11 in East New York. God forbid someone be so blissfully ignorant of the horrors of the food crisis in the United States to post a picture of kale they got from their CSA (for what it’s worth — many CSAs accept food stamps). These statements are extreme and intended to be sarcastic, but this is the basic logic I’ve drawn from Ms. Fagan’s argument.

While food choices should be personal, the fact of the matter is that they aren’t. Just as we have been eating meat since we “were able to sharpen a stick and throw it at moving things,” we have also been using food for much, much more than mere nutrition for nearly as long. Food is something that brings us together, that gives us comfort. The idea of the bonding that comes from sharing a meal is age-old. This explains why, when someone’s dietary choices are threatened, such a visceral and emotional reaction can occur. There is a way to rise above that reaction, but it’s not automatic. It’s something that requires a modicum of time and thought. One must acknowledge the effect that socialization has on our attitudes towards food. Yes, people have been eating meat for a long time, but as an American, most every social, cultural, and media based cue since you’ve become cognitively aware tells you that meat is awesome. Maybe meat is awesome, but those ideas have been imprinted from a very early age in a similar way that something like gender roles are reinforced. It’s worth thinking about before you instinctually reply with the cliché “I could NEVER give up cheese.”

I don’t post videos of animal cruelty on my Facebook page. I don’t enjoy watching them. I’m not crazy about animal torture but what incenses me even more is the lack of transparency from the companies that make the food that people put into their bodies. The conditions around how 99% of animals are “processed” for mass consumption are downright disgusting. There is a severe disconnect between how our food is prepared and how we treat that same food once it arrives on our kitchen counter.

Remember Sinclair’s The Jungle and how everyone sh-t a brick when they saw the awful conditions that plagued factories? For some reason, people put their faith in “modern” technology, believing that whatever questionable methods are used to raise, slaughter, and otherwise process animal products must be “safe” because the government says so. The fact of the matter is, we don’t know exactly what goes into a lot of our food. We aren’t clear on the politics of the meat industry. I’m not saying this is a reason to eat meat or not. I’m just saying that not every person’s dietary choices spring from the desire to frolic with the cows and chickens and everyone lives happily ever after. It can also be about consumer empowerment, which I think is something that meat eaters would support if their brains didn’t start screaming SELF RIGHTEOUS ASSHOLE ad infinitum the minute they hear the words “I don’t eat meat.”

I do agree with Ms. Fagan that even being able to have “dietary choices” is inherently privileged. Many people in America (and the world) do not have that luxury. I understand that just having food — any food — is a struggle for many. But it’s completely invalid for a person like Ms. Fagan, who I’m assuming lives closer to the end of the spectrum of those who can afford healthy food, to say that because some people are not afforded the luxury of fresh, local produce, no one should so much as speak the word “kale.” Let’s not forget, steak is a luxury too. This argument is just looking for another way to show that people who choose to abstain from meat or animal products are somehow inherently self-righteous by the sole fact that they prefer vegetables to meat products.

My point is that the longer meat eaters cast widely generalized and unnecessarily vehement judgments on those who choose to be conscious of their eating habits, the longer we all have to endure these silly diatribes that only create cyclical moral arguments that no one will win. I would rather focus on how the food industry keeps everyone (poor and affluent alike) in the dark about what happens to the food they eat. But I’m still going to post pictures of vegan food on Instagram. And you will still post pictures of bacon-infused bourbon cocktails. And this is OK. TC mark

More From Thought Catalog

  • http://twitter.com/emilcDC Emil Caillaux

    Because 222 comments on this subject weren’t enough? Oy.

    • http://twitter.com/kyleangeletti Kyle Angeletti

      For real. Let’s just all love the food we eat, you know?

    • Charles Taylor

      Who’s counting? A great deal of those comments were measured, respectful and contributed to the dialogue in a meaningful way. Unlike the majority of your contributions, I’m afraid. 

  • http://twitter.com/alisonwisneski alisonwisneski

    I love you.

  • http://twitter.com/timdonnelly Tim Donnelly

    BAM!!

  • http://www.carinaelizabeth.com/ Carina

    GOSPEL.

  • Oliver Miller

    I want to write a rebuttal to a rebuttal to a rebuttal about how irritated I am by all of the sides involved in this debate.  Then I can claim the ultimate moral high-ground of sheer bored-ness, and can die, alone and unloved, on an island, which is always sort of how I pictured myself dying.

    • Anonymous

      BAHHAHAHA. Perfect. 

  • nicoletta

    fantastic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anniehighleysmith Annie Highley-Smith

    bacon steak.

  • a vegan

    thank you.

  • Chelsea Powell

    Thank you!

  • margot

    YES. YES. YES.

  • Sara

    Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/alexinthecity Alexandra Heide

    As someone who typically identifies with Chelsea’s pieces, I am SO GLAD you wrote this. 

  • Om-nom-namaste

    I like that meat eaters are directly contrasted with “people who choose to be conscious of their eating habits.” I guess I eat meat blindly, without thought or consideration at all, because OBVIOUSLY if I thought about it for even a second, I would choose to abstain. If I were as smart as you, I mean. You’re clearly really trying to take the high road and bridge the gap.

    Whatever anyone eats, I just think it’s better if we chew with our mouths closed and step off the soapbox.

    • Samanthakristine1

      I agree with you. I don’t think that people who eat meat are not conscious of their food choices. I guess because it seemed like Chelsea was grouping people who were all high and mighty about buying free range/at whole foods/etc (which might even include buying meat) that made me say that. 

      I get being tired of soapboxes, but I kind of meant this article to be an end to the soapboxes, if you will, as opposed to “this is why you should/shouldn’t eat meat”

  • Dandelion

    I am an omnivore. that means I can eat anything that is put in front of me. I have eaten “raw” with friends. I have eaten vegetarian and vegan with friends. I can even prepare food for these friends who have chosen to limit their food options.  It’s only for one meal or perhaps 2 for god’s sake. Eat what there is and have a discussion about food choices. Or have a potluck and THEN discuss. This is such a non-issue. 

  • sneakypizza

    What really irks me about Ms. Fagan’s article is that it attempts to build an all-encompassing argument in opposition to one sentimental reason for vegan/vegetarianism, while ignoring the myriad practical and scientifically supported reasons for, at the very least, reducing the amount of animal products one consumes. TOADALLY STOOPIT!

  • Jo.B.

    Here’s a side of this you NEVER hear:

    I am most certainly not a vegetarian, I do admire the sentiment behind cruelty-free meat. HOWEVER, my pet peeve is people who think eating FISH is a suitable alternative to other meat products. The  fishing industry takes more animal life and destroys more environment than grown-for-consumption meat animals while the fish themselves die horrible, suffocating deaths that last several days in the cooler tanks of fishing vessels. And yes, they feel pain and fear just like mammals. Plus commercial fishing vessels destroy huge areas of seafloor with methods like bottom trawling and catch thousands of tons of dolphins, turtles, seals, birds and other “inedible” sea life as waste every year. And fish farms? They poison coastlines and destroy wild fish habitats for hundreds of miles around. So next time you order the CRUELTY-CONSCIOUS  tuna steak instead of that POOR, ABUSED beef one, take a second to think. If you’re going to advocate responsible eating or whatever, make sure what you are actually eating IS responsible. 

    • Guest

      So glad somebody brought this up!

    • Rishtopher

      I have never heard that point of view before. I’ve heard about people eating fish as an alternative to other meat because of environmental/cruelty-free -related ideas (one of them being my best friend). This has been very enlightening and I thank you for it.

    • Samanthakristine1

      I agree with you. I used to feel this way as well. However, I think that hating on people because they chose to eat fish and not other kinds of meat detracts from the overall picture of “reducing meat consumption/raising awareness”…so I don’t worry about it as much as I used to.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6IFPDSFKEQJE2ZPP3ASE35MRL4 Laura

      Yes, thank you for pointing that out. People often leave fish out of the equation because they’re not as “cute”. Well hey, I think fish are pretty damn cute.

  • guest

    I feel like you missed the bit at the beginning of the piece you’re responding to where she specifically states that she is addressing the behaviour of militant vegans/vegetarians. Not all people everywhere who don’t eat meat. In fact, if anyone is grossly generalizing it is you, as you state several times that all meat eaters do this or do that.

    • Samanthakristine1

      Any essay addressing two groups of people will have to concede that they are generalizing, at least slightly. But I thought she kind of used that as a throwaway concession. AKA…just because someone puts a pic of kale on Instagram, doesnt mean they are a militant vegan/hates meat eaters/people who eat at McDonalds.

  • Anonymous

    I enjoyed reading this, thank you for the thoughtful response.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cbartnik Caitlin Bartnik

    Thank you! I’m going to print this out and hand it to people when they berate me for being vegetarian. Then post a picture of couscous.

  • http://strugglingsingletwentysomething.blogspot.com/ Katie

    Post pictures of whatever food you want to post pictures of. Just don’t tell anyone else that it’s what they should eating instead of what they prefer.

    • http://strugglingsingletwentysomething.blogspot.com/ Katie

      *should be eating. Sorry, typo.

  • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

    In a recent study, seven out of eight hot dog brands contained bone, collagen, blood vessels, and plant material, in addition to  peripheral nerves. Five brands contained
    adipose tissue, and four contained cartilage. One awesome brand contained delicious skin tissue. 

    On the plus side, no brands contained brain matter–and that’s all I needed to know.  I will continue eating my bone, collagen blood vessels, plans, and nerves.

    • http://twitter.com/emilcDC Emil Caillaux

      Plant material = hot dogs are salads.

  • JEReich

    …and this is why I keep kosher.  No factory farming allowed, guys.

    In all sincerity, I highly enjoyed this Fagan/Moore debate.  Both have good points!

    • Anonymous

      ummm..  I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure it’s universally accepted that kosher killed animals suffer a great deal. I really don’t mean to attack you, but if animal suffering is an issue for you, you might want to look it up.

  • crazycatlady

    Excellent

  • mademoiselle

    I get what you are saying, I’ve been a vegetarian for 13 years and I have put up with unbelievable comments and remarks and conversations that would dry the patience out of a saint. But that’s not the majority of people is it? Those are the assholes – personally I think it comes from a repressed feeling of guilt. Just like omnivorous will tell you they know a bunch of vegetarians who are a pain in the ass and keep nagging them with their food choices. Those are assholes too –  I think comes from a need to be proven better than others. Point being made, there is enough information out there nowadays about food and where it comes from and all that, no one needs to be taught. And personally I do n0t believe in the evangelization of meat eaters. I don’t go down that road, not my business. When you look at it close enough you find that attitutes such as those rise from a very obvious lack of respect for others, and they have very little to do with ideals or lack therof.

  • Me

    WORD!!

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