It started years ago when I spoke to a lady I admired. We met on a kind of collective farm in Spain. I needed a cheap place to stay while I was wandering around Europe and I got a tip from one of my rides about a place where English-speaking environmentalists hung out for a "working holiday." Like almost everyone there, my friend was a vegetarian. She said she couldn't stomach meat since she was about 10 years old. I asked her why and she told me she had watched a scene from Planet of the Apes where intelligent ape hunters carried away their quarry (regressed humans) hogtied on a pole. She may have gone on, at this point, to tell me that pigs were actually smarter than dogs. I knew I wouldn't eat a dog unless my life depended on it, and seeing how I was already on a restricted diet living at the farm, it wasn't hard for me to give up eating pigs then and there (though I love pork!).
I went on like that for years, stoically foregoing pork chops and Polish sausage (and occasionally cheating on pizza toppings), but it wasn't that hard or inconvenient. My family made gentle fun of me (I think my older brother bought me a plush pig for Christmas), but it wasn't a big bother when I came over to visit. I just let my hosts know ahead of time that for ethical reasons, I didn't eat pigs.
Things got a bit harder when I decided to give up red meat. This cuts out a huge American staple -- the hamburger. Plus steaks. My dad is an excellent barbecue-er. I don't think it lasted very long, the first time I did it. You're wading fairly deep into the realm of inconvenience (living in rural America) if you don't eat beef.
I think the reason the red meat thing didn't last as long as the pork thing was because I wasn't motivated enough. The focus was mostly on my health and not on the fact that cows have feelings too. But ever since I gave up eating pigs I've had nothing but sympathy and admiration for vegetarians. I knew they were doing the right thing. Cows aren't animal geniuses but they are lovable. And while my only direct experience with chickens was negative (I got pecked a lot) I wouldn't want to kill one myself. When you factor in the huge cost it takes to feed, transport, and house all these animals, the nasty hormones and food they're given (if I'm not mistaken mad cow disease comes from cows eating the remains of other cows ground up in their feed), and the general overall misery of factory farmed animals ... it's not hard to see that America's love affair with meat is a major part of the world's problems.
I don't want to guilt trip anyone ... God knows the self-righteous attitude I discern from many vegans is one of the biggest excuses I've had towards not becoming one myself ... but 60% of the world's usable farmland is being stripped by live stock. An acre of prime land can produce 40,000 pounds of potatoes but only 250 pounds of beef. In the UK live stock is fed enough food to feed 250,000,000 people while in the world 30,000,000 people die of starvation. That's wrong.
So, when the time finally came where I could afford to make my own food choices (I'll spare you the details of my own miserable poverty) I finally made the decision to go vegetarian. My reasoning was, "if I'm not willing to kill, gut and prepare the animal myself, and I wouldn't raise it the way I know it's being raised on these factory farms, I'm not willing to eat it."
This wasn't all that hard to do, under normal circumstances, in San Francisco. Unfortunately I didn't have a kitchen in the SRO I was staying in and it still wasn't easy finding cheap ways to eat out without meat. I ate lots of Chinese, Mexican, and Indian food.
Then I moved to Indiana to be closer to my kids. This is how most vegetarians have to eat out in most of the country: "I'll have the veggie omelet please." (And this is how most vegans have to eat out: "I'll have the iceberg lettuce side salad with vinaigrette, please.")
Fortunately the electricity in my motel is good enough for me to have a microwave so I can cook my own food. But soon after I moved here they had a salmonella scare with the eggs and I was foolish enough to watch this disgusting video:
That was the end of my blissful enjoyment of eggs. I knew cows were given unnatural, dangerous hormones to produce cheap milk, but at least, I figured, they didn't live out their life in abject misery like those poor factory farm hens. Then I watched a video (much like this one) that basically said, "look, the dairy industry is the veal industry ... cows have to have calves to produce milk, dipshit, and what do you think they do with those calves?"
I'm sorry if I put anyone off their lunch, maybe it's just that I've been pretty grumpy trying to get the hang of this vegan business. I've already "accidentally" bought a couple of (milk chocolate) candy bars and, after paying 3 times as much for margarine that absolutely didn't have dairy products in it, I mistakenly bought "imitation meat" that I didn't notice had eggs and milk in it until I got home.
(***SAVE THE PLANET! CUT BACK ON YOUR MEAT CONSUMPTION! MAKE LIFE EASIER FOR OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE STICKLERS FOR INTEGRITY LIKE ME, AND DEMAND YOUR STORE OR RESTAURANT CARRY AT LEAST A FEW VEGAN PRODUCTS!***)
On a completely different note, once again GW from Washington's blog writes just the kind of brilliant article I wish I would've written.