If you eat meat and non-meat foods then of course you’re an omnivore. If you don’t eat any meat then you’re a herbivore and therefore a vegetarian (although I suppose technically you’re still a herbivore unless you consider yourself vegan but what’s in a word anyway?). I have yet to meet anyone who is a pure carnivore. If people like that exist then Its news to me…and quite frankly seems odd, or is that just me? Anyway, I digress.
One of the most common arguments that takes place online is between vegetarians and ‘meat eaters’. They can never quite seem to see eye to eye. There are always the exceptions and indeed there are plenty of them, some will concede to a degree each others arguments, some just troll each other either on purpose or by accident due to their inherent belief that their opinion is the correct one regardless of the argument but there are many more that just simply don’t agree, (a subtle difference from the forementioned type) neither trolling nor looking to give ground. They just debate their side of the argument and look to strengthen their own argument by the use of examples and facts. Debate at its finest. But who is right and who is wrong?
You’re asking the wrong question. I’ll tell you the right one in just a second.
Firstly we need to establish not whether eating meat, today, is right or wrong but in an ideal world what is the right stance to take? It would take a real beast of a human to take the stance that eating meat in an ‘ideal world’ is the right thing to do. Not many people eat meat thinking “hey that was a worthy kill, I am glad that animal died for me, I hope it suffered just for my satisfaction”. No, most people think that if we could, in an ideal world, satisfy our cravings, our desire for meat type foods without either eating meat itself or in a way that was so humane that it satisfied pretty much everyone (yes, I know thats a near impossibility) then that would be the ideal scenario. So a win for the vegetarians right? Hoorah! Well, no, because that’s in an ideal scenario, it doesn’t change today. Nor tomorrow or the day after that. There is no ideal world.. yet.
That leads me to the real question we should all be asking;
Why do people not change to being vegetarians? (Or even vegan). The answer to this question requires us all to be singing from the same hymn sheet, vegetarian and meat eaters alike.
(SLAUGHTER HOUSE: THE TASK OF BLOOD – CONTAINS DISTRESSING IMAGES)
Conditioning. It’s something that very few people can escape from. Many vegetarians were born into families that led a vegetarian lifestyle or perhaps happened to be surrounded by like minded friends as they grew up. Some, though not too many, will have decided that it was what they wanted to do and taught themselves to change their own habits although again, this will have often been at an earlier age in their lives. Very few will have decided to, and succeeded, in becoming vegetarians in their 30’s or 40’s or more. The old saying is very much true ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’.
Many vegetarians will say to a meat eater “oh it’s easy, just stop eating meat and bingo, you’re vegetarian”. Seriously, stop! If it was that easy there would be no meat eaters, no smokers, no drinkers, no drug addicts, no theives, no gamblers, no adrenaline junkies and no speed freaks to name but a few. Every decision me make in life is based on our own experiences and the longer we stick to one type of behaviour the harder it is to break that behaviour cycle.
If we can break the conditioning behaviour from a young enough age through education however, then we stand a better chance of achieving the aim of at least better animal care and rights or even better, we could reach our ideal scenario I mentioned earlier. After all, if you believe in the ideal scenario, meat eater or not, then you would have to agree that education and changing habits would be a fair and just way to approach this. It’s not as if you could really sit there and say “no, don’t change it, I eat meat so everyone else should to, sod the animals, I’m quite happy to see them perish in the most brutal ways”. If that’s not in your remit of acceptable language then you by default agree that change is needed and why not start at a young age? It can only be a good thing. You couldn’t possibly consider it a bad thing.
So how do you change the conditioning? The education system is not designed to promote societal changes its there to teach you academia, to help you get a better job to be able to maintain a good job. Isn’t it?
Yes, by and large that’s correct but it does indeed teach us societal structures, how to deal with others. Tolerance. In schools, certainly in the West, we are taught to be accepting of others, to not bully, to be able to communicate with others in a certain way. We are essentially taught that capitalism is good. We are also taught that ‘good’ food is preferable to ‘bad’ food… and… hang on.. we are already promoting certain eating habits in our schools. Healthy food is the mantra in schools today so why can’t we promote sustainable and ethical eating too? It wouldn’t be out of the question or a giant leap… so why doesn’t that happen?
(THE TRUTH ABOUT FOOD: FOOD INC. A DOCUMENTARY)
Because of course the health experts will say that a balanced diet is essential to the healthy growth of every child and so you can’t have a government promoting a diet which denies those kids a healthy balanced diet. A win for the meat eaters, hoorah! Well, almost but not quite.
A balanced diet can pretty much be gained from other food sources with the exception of some vitamins and minerals perhaps but of course anything missing from the school menu can be given to the child at home much in the same way that sugary foods can be given to children at home should the parents think it’s right to do so. After all the packaging usually says something like “…as part of a balanced diet”. This isn’t about what supplements our parents give us (so much), it’s about how our schools help to change attitudes from a young age, after all its where our kids spend most of their young lives and many life choices are born within the school walls due to education and peer pressure.
Secondly to this the Government may not see it in their interests to promote vegetarian only foods within schools as the meat industry may not appreciate their lobbying money go to waste. Come on… every industry lobbies governments to protect their own interests, happens all the time.
With that said schools do already give out vegetarian dishes so once again, it wouldn’t be a great leap to think that schools could do away with meat dishes altogether. On top of that, ethical ideas could be promoted in terms of not eating meat just in the same way that sugary foods are promoted as bad within schools. This could be taught more in say
food technology cooking classes.
The change to societal behaviours has to start somewhere and what better place to start than schools?
In today’s society we grow up with no idea about the meat industry and what it takes to get that meat on our plates. We often only find out much later in life and by then, eating meat is just second nature to many and the mental link between living animal and what’s in front of us on our dinner tables just can’t be bridged. Yet for change to occur that link must be made.
Case in point myself. I only discovered what really goes on around 3-4 years ago. Sure, I knew for many years prior that the beefburger comes from cow and ham from pigs but there was no connection between the reality of a pig walking around and that same pig being on my table. Even when I discovered what really went on.. with my own eyes… I couldn’t stop eating meat. It did change me though. I eat less meat than I did, substituting it with vegetarian dishes and a desire to eat any meat from local ethical outlets compared to the mass markets of superstore meat. So that process of educating myself had enough impact to change my habits, imagine the impact if from a young age I was more aware.
I tried to give up meat completely but the habit of eating meat was just too ingrained, the habit of a lifetime was too prevelent. There is one more factor to take into account in all of this. Poverty. Eating a vegetarian diet can be an expensive process. It’s a sad fact that a bag of meat (in whatever form that may take) is cheap when compared to a bag of vegetables (When taking into account how much content there is in the packaging and how many meals it provides). Even ethical or local meat is far more expensive than mass produced meat and It’s something that needs to change, healthy sustainable food needs to get cheaper, it would make a huge difference. Some will argue that it can be cheaper but that assumes you can make a huge leap into vegetarianism in the first place. When you’re starting out, the cost increase initially when you’re looking at like-for-like products is noticeable. Trust me, I know.
(WHERE DOES YOUR MEAT COME FROM?)
So the conclusion is this. Instead of fighting each other over who is right and who is wrong we should be combining our efforts and desire for change to tackle the future generations and that starts with education. Tell your children exactly where their meat comes from. When you give them a vegetarian dish make a point of explaining why it’s better than meat. If you’re giving them a meat dish, explain where it comes from and what it took to get it to them and above all campaign for schools to educate our children. There is no shame in becoming a vegetarian. It may not be for you, but it’s hard to claim that a child growing up on a vegetarian diet will notice the lack of meat in their diet because that will be their conditioning and won’t know the difference. If we accept that through conditioning we will unlikely change the minds of each other then we can all come together to change the minds of future generations because right now we are wasting our breath arguing with each other and all to no end.
Spread the message, encourage others to try, but take it from me, arguing your point vehemently rarely convinces anyone to change their habits. That’s why video documentaries are so powerful because they present facts in a non combative way and allow people to digest things for themselves and that’s even if they can bring themselves to watch. If you cant watch one of those documentaries there is probably a good reason for that and that reason should be enough to convince you that you should join with your opponent in campaigning for change. If as a vegetarian you cant see why people won’t change after you have blasted them, then you are not seeing the bigger picture and you will likely never achieve your aims in converting people .
(A QUICK LOOK AT HOW MEAT CAN BE GAINED ETHICALLY AND IN A SUSTAINABLE WAY)
I encourage vegetarians to re-align their focus of attack, your voice will be stronger together. I encourage meat eaters to join the vegetarians in voice if not actions and please.. if you insist on eating meat… as i myself do… then at least make yourself aware by watching one or more of the movies within this post. To claim “I know” without having seen one is a lie to yourself and is your conscience preventing you from witnessing the truth. Don’t you at least owe it to yourself to really know to be able to make an informed decision?
I am sure that despite all of the above, the arguments will still rage on for a long time to come.
(WHAT IF THE WORLD WENT VEGETARIAN?)