Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Carnivore That Turned Me Into a Vegetarian

*I saw a T-shirt at the Indiana State Fair last year that said: "Vegetarian - Ancient trial slang for the village idiot who can't hunt." It offended me even though I'm pretty sure I had a pork burger in my hand at the time.  A few months later in Chicago, I encountered a vegetarian activist outside the El handing out brochures with photos of abused animals in factory farms. Way to cheer me up after a long day at work. But I know you and I aren't like those folks, right? We won't judge eat other for our personal food choices. So I hope you enjoy this post as just another one of my life stories...

When I wake up every morning, I adjust my blanket and reposition my floppy arms before slowly opening my sleepy eyes to see this:

That’s my dog, Teddy, giving me his “Good morning, time for breakfast!” stare.  He’s a 10-month-old, 105 pound Newfoundland puppy with a personality as cozy and huggable as his fluffy body.  And he wants me to let you know that he would love to meet you.

If he wasn’t a dog, his morning stare would creep me out.  It did initially: the first time he woke me up this way I found it so jarring that I jerked my head back onto Ian’s pillow because his huge head was only six inches away from my face.  Even today I never know if he’s been there for two minutes or two hours.

But now I look forward to seeing my Teddy Bear’s face first thing; it’s just a daily reminder of his immortal cuteness.  And, as a recovering omnivore, his stare reminds every morning me why I finally chose Vegetarianism in April 2011.

Before then, I had always called myself an “aspirational vegetarian.”  I had read lots of articles on the health benefits of plant-based diets and seen several documentaries on the ethical and environmental implications of the meat industry and had even gone through a few day/week-long stints of meatlessness since college.  But I shoved all that info behind my conscience whenever I stared at the delicious mushroom-swiss burger on Chili’s menu or smelled bacon crisping in the frying pan.  There’s no denying it: meat is tasty.

We adopted Teddy in December 2010, and four months later we saw Food, Inc.
 All I’m going to say is that if you eat food in America, you should see this movie.  I don’t remember many of the facts or persuasive arguments in the film, but I remember seeing the image of a black cow standing in a stockyard.

Then I looked down at Teddy who was also watching the movie (he likes TV), and he looked back at me and smiled. That was it.  They looked too much alike.  I knew I’d no longer be able to eat a hamburger without seeing Teddy’s face in it.  So I’ve been a vegetarian for four months now.  I realize that doesn’t sound like much time, but it’s significant to me because I know it’s the real thing.  Having failed before, I know what it feels like to know you’re going to give up, and I don’t feel like that anymore.

So Teddy is the carnivore that finally made me a vegetarian.  Even though he eats meat and has his own environmental impact, he’s helping me improve my own ecological footprint, and he’s converted me in the most significant way.  You see, as much as I care about the environmental consequences of meat production, I couldn’t stop eating meat because it pollutes our water and deforests our land.  I stopped eating animals because I started loving one, and I can’t eat something I could love.


cp said...

I LOVE TEDDY!!! xoxo

Laura said...

What a great post! I became a vegetarian for the same reason- well, almost. My favorite stuffed animal as a kid was a pig, and I decided I didn't want any of his family members to die. Ah, the logic of a 4 year old.

I've probably mentioned this to you already, but I always give new vegetarians two pieces of advice. Buy a cast-iron skillet (you get a little bit of iron in your food every time you cook in it) and Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything- Vegetarian (it will change your life!).

Anne said...

Carolyn - Teddy misses you! Hopefully you can see each other sometime soon.

Laura - I got a cast iron skillet last year and totally love it! It's distributes the heat so nicely :) Is Mark Bittman the guy who wrote "Eating Animals?" I've heard that's a good book...