I love meat, I adore barbecue chicken and I sometimes dream of salami, specially prosciutto and sopresatta. Yet I have been devoid of my meaty loves since 1998, I am a vegetarian for 23 years. Has it been difficult? Yes, unquestionably the greatest sacrifice of my life. Then why choose this tortuous path? The response leads one down a slippery intersection of philosophy, religion and the meaning of life itself.
The journey begins and quickly ends
I was 19 years old when I first questioned humanity’s decision to kill any animal so as to consume its flesh. I had been raised 100% carnivore, eating some kind of meat almost daily. My mom used to even ask me to drink a delicious but ghastly brew. You heat the blood of an animal and mix in some spices and give it to your kid, supposedly to strengthen him. What made me question these age old processes at the ripe old age of 19? Actually nothing specific. I was always a thinking child, always questioning and analyzing. Thus one day I asked myself ‘is it right that we do so much killing, do the animals want to be killed, have they done something bad and thus deserve to be slaughtered?’
Not finding a rationale for our wholesale killing, I went vegetarian on the spot. After all if one does not put into force the result of his thinking, of what use is the analysis in the first place. Well, that episode lasted six months. My mom, ever so concerned, even got our family doctor to tell me I need to eat meat since I am weak. That did not deter me, but when my girlfriend said ‘I can’t cook two separate meals’, well that brought to an end my vegetarian adventure.
The journey restarts
The second phase came in 1998. We had adopted Buddy, a mini American Eskimo and I was up to my old tricks, observing and analyzing him incessantly. During our first year together I noticed human like behavior in Buddy. He expressed love, hate, fear, anger, loyalty and even jealousy. To this thinker dog equaled cow that then equaled bird. As it was inconceivable that we would kill Buddy and eat his flesh it became equally inconceivable to eat the cow or the bird.
For 23 years I have swallowed hard at the images of a particularly tasty looking hamburger on TV and peered longingly at the next table consuming a slab of steak. I sometimes punish myself watching Guy Fieri gorge on some meat filled dish exclaiming its virtues. I am not sure if I am living life vicariously or just punishing myself. I know I miss it, even though I hardly remember what a hamburger tasted like, long term memory still stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain.
Am I just a masochist? Am I unbalanced? Possibly. We have created a God out of thin air. From Zoroaster to the monotheistic Sun God of Akhenaten, to the scheming Gods of the Greeks and Romans, to the cruel and angry God of the Jews, to the quid pro quo God of the Muslims and finally to the all loving and forgiving God of the Christians. With each invocation came different traits and personalities. Bloody one day and ready to forgive Adolf Hitler the next, humans created God in their own dyslexic image, more Harry Potter than divinity. Did we really need God to tell us ‘thou shall not kill’? Does anyone not know the pain and fear that comprises death? If murder became legal, would you start killing?
What sets humans and all other creatures of life apart is a conscience and the higher intelligence that drives it. If a cow walks down a street and sees another cow bleeding, in pain, does it stop and try to care for it? Highly unlikely. Same situation, a human will most certainly go out of their way to aid the fallen. This is because we have an inane sense of right and wrong, along with a conscience. It is exactly those very human qualities that convinced me to voluntarily punish myself for 23 years and counting.
Finally at peace
I am happy that nature agrees with my moral decision by making plant based foods better for the body and mind. However I do not expect nor seek rewards for my sacrifice upon my passing. I take this burden as a corrective action to an injustice of life that has yet to be addressed. Similar to how humans made thievery, murder, slavery and debauchery illegal, even though in the lexicon of life they are encouraged and can be rewarding. I decided the eating of meat was one of those errors of life that thinking humans needed to correct. Possibly future generations will travel my moral and intellectual journey and we’ll finally end up with a vegetarian species, refuting once again the so called natural laws of life. Humanity returning to the Paradise of Adam and Eve where all were vegetarians and the lion lived in peace with the lamb.
It’s good for your body, it’s good for the climate and it’s good for the animal, vegetarianism. Still the hunger yearns!