In Defense Of Flexitarian-ism
A few years ago, I decided to band together with my wife and become vegetarian. Prior to this, I hadn’t attributed much thought to my diet. (For instance, I would routinely return home after a late night DJ’ing and warm a few Pizza Pockets in the microwave).
My decision was motivated by a few reasons:
- My wife is a much better cook than me; by adopting her already mostly vegetarian meals I instantly expanded my culinary pallette tenfold.
- I was set to complete a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat, which served only vegetarian food; I figured I may as well prepare my stomach.
- I knew vaguely about the meat industrial complex, and no longer wished to support such a cruel system.
And so we tried it. We became “vegetarian.”
Enter The Vegetarians
This meant at home we could enjoy our tofu and lentils and couscous and feel good. But this also meant at parties and other social outings, we now had to define ourselves as vegetarian.
“Chicken? No thanks, I’m a vegetarian.”
“Those steaks do look great…but I gave up meat. I’m a vegetarian.”
“Baconaise? I’d love to try it, but I’m a vegetarian.”
I felt odd using that word in public. It felt too much like a label I was using to set myself apart from the other meat-eating heathens. It had become part of my identity. So instead, I attempted to use the word as neutrally as possible to avoid “passing judgement” on the eating habits of friends.
Then it became harder. At dinner, my wife and I would find ourselves receiving special treatment. For instance, say the main course was turkey, but because of vegetarian preferences, the host would feel compelled to cook a veggie option as well.
We were their guests, and we were demanding they change to accommodate us. It didn’t feel right.
The Blurry Line
I began researching the pros and cons of vegetarianism, which led me to some startling truths about the diet. I could outline most of the commonly held assumptions and their rebuttals, but other writers, such as Michael Pollan, have done so far more eloquently than I ever could.
Basically, I arrived at the following conclusions:
- I believe it is ethically defensible to eat animals. After all, we are still omnivores. Humans have consumed meat since the dawn of time. (Disclaimer: I used this phrase as a hyperbole, but as readers commented below, this is factually incorrect).
- I do not believe an animal should needlessly suffer before its death, stuck in abhorrent factory farm conditions.
- I want my body to remain healthy, hence my food to be chemical-free.
- I want my diet to consume the least amount of energy to get to my plate. Meat, especially beef, generally consumes much more energy to produce than chicken or pork.
Which led me to make the following goals in my diet:
- Eat less meat. And when I do, eat less energy intensive chicken, fish, or pork.
- Buy free-range, organic, and perhaps most importantly, locally farmed meat.
- When offered meat, it is more important to honour the offering, rather than pass judgement on the giver. (A practice used by Buddhist monks who rely on food alms to survive).
- Avoid fast food, in all its forms. This can be the most challenging, especially when time/options are tight.
Meet The Flexitarians
While on the surface, it sounds like we’re simply vegetarians with little will power, I believe it attempts to elegantly handle the social, moral, and environmental implications around the modern diet.
Plus, it lets me try Baconaise (as long as someone offers first).
Update: after scouring the Baconaise website, I’m unsure if it actually contains bacon.