On Draining the Lifeblood from Fields of Celery

One of the questions I used to get asked all the time was: “why are you a vegetarian?” It was a question I used to hate having to answer and that I would, in fact, go out of my way to not answer. If I did answer the question, it was always with some kind of bullshit designed to dissuade my interlocutor, and anyone else who might get curious, not to ask again. My favourite answer was in fact: “because the grass was green on a Tuesday.” Not helpful, and worse yet, not even funny. This (hopefully) isn’t going to be un-helpful, un-funny rambling sidestepping of the issue. I will go into a little bit about why I never like talking about being a vegetarian, but mostly I want to (only this once) give as good an explanation as I have. Also did I mention it is Bacon month here at Concept Crucible? Chew on that.

CeleryThe main reason I would always say that I don’t like to talk to people about being a vegetarian is that quite simply, it’s none of their business. Like any other kind of personal decision that has little or no affect on others I didn’t see any particular reason to share it. I mean at some point you have to tell people or you risk getting steak put on your plate, but I would mention it only when necessary and not in any detail. It actually took me months before I told my own mother and she only found out when a friend of mine mentioned it in passing. I guess I’m just a private person but I also find that while a lot of people are ostensibly curious about the reasons why I don’t eat meat, they are often more curious because it’s different, rather than the actual motivations. And then some people are just “carrots have feelings too” smart-asses and I have little patience for their ilk. Growing older I have since revised my outlook on how the decisions I make can and do affect other people, but I still maintain that it’s not really anybody’s business.

When I first became a vegetarian I was amazed to see that my decision did actually have an effect on more than one person around me. After I decided not to eat meat a few friends of mine tried being vegetarians and while they later gave it up, I’m not sure that I have ever felt easy about being partially responsible for a decision like that. I’m not one of those vegetarians that gets in gets in your face and harangues you for eating meat. I won’t sit there at dinner and lecture you about the “short horrid life” your veal had before it recently became so delicious. I couldn’t care less about what other people eat. Except Jello, that stuff is gross. I don’t want to make other people become vegetarians. I have no idea if such a choice is right for them, or fits into their lifestyles. All I know is that it works for me. I’m certainly very glad that my girlfriend was a vegetarian before I met her. Easier all round.

I first became a vegetarian about 12 years ago when I was 20. As a teenager I was very pro meat, especially beef. I remember quipping that cows deserve to be eaten because they have a fatal confluence of traits: they are slow, dumb, and tasty. As I got older and became exposed to new things my ideas about diet and meat began to change. Probably the single most influential idea that contributed to my becoming a vegetarian was that of ahimsa. Simply put, ahimsa is to do no harm. In his autobiography, which I had read earlier that winter, Ghandi cited ahimsa as one of the driving forces behind his vegetarianism. As a young man I found the arguments compelling. By avoiding meat, I could avoid doing some harm to living things. If I could live my life without killing animals, with little or no discomfort to myself then I felt like I should. Of course many of Ghandi’s motivations were religious and I have never been interested in any of those arguments per se. Another factor was that one of my step sisters was a vegetarian. I suppose that she was the first real exposure that I had to a real breathing person who didn’t eat meat. I remember on the week I had decided to try going without meat we wound up going on a family vacation to Quebec City, and I don’t know if I would have made it through that trip without her. Pro tip: I filled up on bread.

autobaconimageAfter I had been a vegetarian for a while I began taking interest in some of the other issues that surround animal rights and vegetarianism. I decided not to become a vegan. Not because vegans are crazy people (they might be) but I wasn’t willing to give up cheese, and you have to draw a line somewhere. Also I didn’t have to decide whether or not I wanted to eat fish. Fish is gross. I began to find some of the issues around the conditions under which animals are housed and slaughtered to be compelling as well. There isn’t any point in going into a lot of that stuff here, it’s just sad and like I said I’m not trying to convert anyone. Besides I already tend to digress too much as it is. I do find it funny though because I’m not really an animal person. I believe that animals have their world, and I have mine and that is that.

I suppose that over the years I have become more and more used to the question “why are you a vegetarian?” I still don’t give a very long answer, but I’m not a smart ass about it either. I simply prefer to say that I don’t care to get into it. I often say now that I’m not a vegetarian, but rather a person “who doesn’t eat any meat.” While the difference is mostly semantic it reflects the way I have come to feel about what I eat. I don’t directly identify much with any of the arguments that I have illuminated above anymore and I’m not sure if it’s that my vegetarianism has just become habit, or that I have internalized the arguments behind it so much that they are just part of me. I suppose that’s the same thing isn’t it? I’m not sure that this answer is any better than the colour of the grass on my favourite day of the week, but it’s probably all you’re going to get. As a side note, and final digression, the third biggest influence on my vegetarianism was The Celery Stalks at Midnight.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *