As mentioned, yesterday marked our one-year anniversary of our emigrating to the states, it also marked the same for my change to pescatarian diet (vegetarian + fish and seafood). It was on the plane to the states that I first asked for a vegetarian meal, something I had neglected to pre-order, and was assured they carried one extra vegetarian meal per trolley so I should be in luck. I crossed my fingers that he did not ask me how long I had been a vegetarian whilst he bended over backwards finding me a meal because I’d have had to answer “since today”.
Yet I have always seen pescatarianism as a compromise. My politics are totally in line with vegetarianism, well, veganism to be precise, but I was concerned that too big a change might end in failure, or that I wouldn’t know enough about what to eat to remain healthy, so opted to keep eating fish.
A couple of weeks ago I decided to mark the anniversary by giving full on vegetarianism a try. My reasons for doing so are mixed: in order to support animal rights, to lose weight, and alas, most honestly, because I am not a natural fish eater and don’t really enjoy it. In fact as a kid I only ate fish fingers or fish and chips, and soon gave up the fish fingers when I was given a grey one. So the logic is that because I’m bored of fish I’m going to restrict my diet even further. I should be back on steaks within the month…
It is interesting though that a year ago, when asking vegetarians I met about what prompted their choice very few mentioned animal rights, in fact people were fairly obtuse about their reasons. This surprised me, I had always assumed due to the example given by my teenage friends that the only reason for doing so was in aid of animals. It gave me the impression that many people associated such political choices with a group of activists they did not want to associate themselves with, yet they wanted to help animals themselves. Lots of people don’t want to be stick their necks out, so I guessed this followed. But why wouldn’t you want to declare your support for animals?
I think this issue strikes at a lot of people’s insecurities because we know we are living in bad faith. We love animals, especially our pets yet we willfully eat others. We have the money and the emotional sensitivity to support ethical farming, but we choose instead to stick our fingers in our ears and hope for the best. Whenever I circulate one of those upsetting campaign virals to help the Soi Dogs in Thailand or the anti Foie Gras petitions, for instance, I know I am tickling an uncomfortable part of my friends and followers’ underbellies, and I feel bad doing so. But it needs to be done, we need to see the terrible food industry for what it is and demand better.
You see, I’m not actually against humans eating meat, I think that can logically be supported by us being at the top of a food chain where other animals eat smaller ones below us too and we think that is just nature happening. But what is different for humans is that we torture animals for the entirety of their lives before we eat them, by pinning them down in tiny cages for instance. No other animals do that, and we like to think of ourselves as better than animals for having the ability to reason. Fat evidence of that.
I have a slightly blurred ethics around animal testing too. I think cosmetic testing should be outlawed completely but that medical testing should remain under tightly controlled conditions that allow the animals time out of cages, the ability to create communities etc. I always try not to buy any product tested on animals, including most of my cosmetics, yet I will concede if a cosmetic cannot be found that is as affective as the tested ones. Deodorant is the perfect example of this. Part of the reason I am trying out vegetarianism now is also because I am due to try a course of natural thyroxin, which unlike the levothyroxine I currently take is made from pigs and not synthetically made. So I guess I am offsetting this with my new vegetarianism. I don’t need to take this new medication, I’m just trying it out because others say it is so fabulous as a pick me up (reduced levels of thyroxin can be detrimental to your mood) and in order to lose weight, not good enough reasons in my book, and yet I’m giving it a try.
My reasoning – and yes, every vegetarian’s reason is different (I can call myself that as I haven’t given up yet) is that I do not want to support such a cruel food industry. I started small by only buying free range eggs for years; then only buying British pork or pork with the tractor label, which does not pen pigs in whereas other countries do (NEVER buy Danish pork!) These are easy things anyone can do to help change the industry, I urge you to try.
But I am a thinker and so I pan out all the possibilities of a situation, in order to mentally torture myself it would seem. So I’m wondering, what happens if I am inadvertently served meat? As my motive is not one of treating my body like an animal-free temple, I should in theory be open to the idea of eating it. After all if I don’t that piece of meat (especially if it’s a whole animal like a fish or poussin) it wont be served to anyone else in all likelihood and that animal will have died for no reason at all, and dying involves living in terrible conditions, again for no reason. I think I would first try to make my meat eating friends eat it, or give it away to the next table, if not, keep it for the dogs (I note the difficulties of extending vegetarianism for the sake of the animals in my dog’s food, it’s harder to justify for an animal (a dog) further down the totem pole who would gladly eat meat and whose diet I am in complete control of). But I’m not entirely sure, it would depend on the specific circumstances. Recently. after complaining that my salmon was served cold and asking it to be reheated, I happened to have the state of mind to inquire whether this piece would be chucked and another cooked. The answer was yes, I ate the cold fish.
Alas, ethics are hard. They are hard to live by and they are even harder to ignore. But I think it is better to be mixed up yet generally going in the right direction, than not to care enough to try at all.