OPINION: To meat or not to meat

Cameron Gorman headshot

Cameron Gorman

When I tell people that I’m a vegetarian, I often get an immediate response. It’s rarely, if ever negative. Instead, it’s almost always a “Good for you,” or a “Me, too!” When meeting another vegetarian, in fact, the commonality that we’re both meat-abstainers proves to be an immediate point of camaraderie.

I know that it’s often hard to become vegetarian or vegan — and it’s something that almost always requires the tough decision to change one’s diet to be made. Sometimes, though, it’s a choice that’s made for you. It was for me.

When I was born, my mother decided to raise me (and all of my siblings) as vegetarians. I’ve never had a bite of meat in my life on purpose. (I discount that Taco Bell mistake when I was a kid.) I still eat dairy products and eggs, but no meat, fish or shellfish.

As a means of comparison: I’m by no means a vegan, but I do still have to let people at conferences and weddings know that I need an alternative main course.

When I bring that part of my vegetarianism up, the response is sometimes more mixed. (Think: “Did you ever want to try to eat meat instead,” or, “Hmm, interesting.”) That’s why I often preface my diet disclosures by letting people know that while yes, I am a practicing vegetarian, I didn’t really have to work to get there.

The sight of meat doesn’t appetize me at all, and I’m fairly sure that if I were to just eat a steak out of the blue that I’d probably be sick. (Of course, that’s not to say I wouldn’t eat meat in a life or death situation. It’s just something that I choose not to include in my everyday diet.)

I will admit, it sometimes makes me feel as though I didn’t have to “try as hard” as other vegetarians. I certainly don’t try as hard as vegans, I suppose, if I’m still enjoying cheese. (In my opinion, a very hard thing not to enjoy.) But that’s where I try to take a step back. Sure, I’m not vegan. But does that mean I’m not trying? Being true to my own health and values?

There are some people in the world who, for health reasons, would have a much, much harder time than the average person at going vegan — or vegetarian, for that matter. And there are people in the world who will not eat dairy for ethical reasons. Both are valid.

As a vegetarian, I have reservations about the ethicality of eating meat. But that doesn’t mean that I try to convert others to the green side through throwing paint on them.

If you were trying to have a civil debate, you likely wouldn’t yell. And if you were explaining to someone why you eat what you do, you likely wouldn’t shame them. Why hate vegans for loving plants? (There’s no reason to disinvite them from BBQs, either. Just grill some veggie burgers.) And at the same time, why think you’d ever share your point of view on meat with someone if you simply yell at them?

It’d be silly to pretend I don’t have at least some dietary biases when it comes to eating animals. After all, I have kept up what my mom started, and I’m no fan of steak or meatloaf.

But I try not to judge others on their food choices, either. And even if you do want to let others in on your lifestyle, the way to do it isn’t through humiliation (and certainly not through seizing their cheese).

Cameron Gorman is a columnist. Contact her at [email protected]