Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Compare and Contrast

I read this article and being a vegetarian myself, I found it so very sad that this behaviour is okay. Why is it okay to question a vegetarian on their reasons and morals with respect to food, but it's not okay to question a person's religious beliefs? Why is it okay to react to vegetarianism with "Good for you I could never give up meat" and it's not okay to do the same thing to (non)religious people.

This might seem like a very strange comparison and contrast, but I like a challenge and lately I've noticed some similarities.

Disclaimer: I'm also an atheist (for those of you who are new here).

Some of the stories contained in the above, linked article describe outright discrimination and sneaky subterfuge, example the old grandmother sneaking finely minced chicken into a vegetarian dish because "everyone needs to eat meat."Hold the bloody phone. Not everyone needs to eat meat. Eating meat is a choice as is not eating it. We all have our reasons for not eating meat and they vary widely but usually have some sort of moral or personal ethos at their core. To tell someone they're wrong, foolish or malnourished suggests that vegetarians can't take care of themselves, that we haven't thought this through or that we're going against instinct because people have always eaten meat. Always.

I've been vegetarian (not vegan) for almost 13 years now. That's a long time and when I first started this dietary adventure it never occurred to me that I would change my mind and go back to eating meat. I knew that there was a risk that I may not be able to eat meat any more after a certain amount of time, I'm certain my belly would revolt for a while if I were faced with having to eat dead animals again. And this was a choice I made quite easily and have never regretted it.

I have been an Atheist for even longer, 20 years now. It was a choice I made quite easily as well. Also I've never regretted this decision. These two choices I've made, I've never ever felt a need to ever re-evaluate them. And I still don't. These are the two best decisions I've ever made in my life or possibly ever will make.

I get the comments and questions about one, but not the other. Both are just as unconventional and against the supposed grain and yet no one either wants to know about my lack of religion or just doesn't want to have that conversation because it's one of those things you don't discuss in polite company. Oh but my dietary choices? That's fair game. Think about it for a second. I'll wait.

Here are some of the the comments I get most often. At the lunch table in cafeteria's when meat-eating co-workers are having meaty things. "Does my food offend you, I'm so sorry to eat this in front of you?" My answer is usually something along the lines of "I don't have to eat it/I don't care what you eat." Apply that question to Atheism "Does my religion offend you? I'm sorry for practicing it right in front of you." Who would say that? No one. Because people have the freedom to practice their religion without fear of discrimination.

Another gem. "I could never give up steak, it's so delicious. Don't you miss it?" My answer is always a polite no I don't miss it, instead of the thought of eating dead flesh turns my stomach. Flip that around "I could never give up God, he's so awesome. Don't you miss him?" Who would say that? No one. Because the initial reactions I got to being an atheist was "you're going to hell". Quite the empty threat for an Atheist, but I digress.

The only comment parallel I can almost make is this one, "can't you just pick the meat off?" This one usually comes up when there's something served with meat like pizza with pepperoni or salads that have chicken on them. My answer is always: No. I can't. I say this instead of asking them if they would like to pick raw, maggoty road kill of their food before they eat it. Because I'm nice like that and usually people are eating when this question gets asked. Now let's flip that one around. "Can't you just ignore the religious parts?"Yes. Yes I can. I do this every day. All day. Regardless of how I feel about religion.

I'm expected to do this. We are all expected to do this and it's called respect for other people's beliefs. So why is it okay for people to make these sorts of comments about a person's dietary choices. I'm not the only vegetarian in the world who gets asked these questions. If you want to be religious and/or eat meat that's fine, you go right ahead and do that on your own because as a human being you do have the right to make these choices. I do not have an agenda that I wish to impose on anyone. I do not ask meat eaters why they eat meat during meal times. I do not ask Christians, Jews or Muslims why they believe what they do while they worship.

Because that would be rude.

Just about everyone who knows me has asked the above questions or made these comments. And many of them are going to read this entry. I want you all to know I'm not annoyed with you specifically. I'm not terribly offended (maybe a little tired after 13 years of being asked the same questions and giving the same answers and I grant that sometimes it's just plain old curiosity on the other person's part). It just occurred to me that there was a parallel here and a sudden realization that one of these lines of questioning was 'okay' and one of them is not.

Food for thought.

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