'Vegetarian' Is An Annoying Word That's Hard For Me To Swallow


I’m at a mate’s for dinner and as usual meat is the meal’s cornerstone. I once again find myself having to justify my eating habits to normal humanpeople, and vegetarians.

We finish eating and once again I’m asked the question, ‘If you’re a vegetarian then how come you’re trying the chicken?’

I think the misunderstanding stems from a commonplace failure to acknowledge a couple of things:

1. The inanity of defining oneself/others through a label that only speaks to the food one consumes, and
2. The non-conscious human inclination to fold all new concepts and information into pre-existing categories.

The second is something I find pretty fascinating. Inductive reasoning is efficient, and usually a pretty important function in helping us navigate our little spinning blip in the universe, but it comes with a few problems.

Meat people tend to infer that because you refuse to pay for or cook meat you must therefore be a vegetarian, and have a moral issue with eating animals. They then stare shocked, and will often accuse you of hypocrisy, when you pick up one of the banquet’s surplus chicken wings at the end of the night and have a nibble.

This is missing the point.

I am not a vegetarian but I don’t buy meat. Is it so difficult to understand without dichotomizing the eating habits of the entire planet?

I don’t support Hamas but I would never buy any product that contributes in any way to the Israeli economy.

I will not buy an iPhone because Foxcon is a criminal organization, but I use a second hand one I got for free with zero moral ambiguities.

When it comes to moralisms I can’t get on board, because morals are too subjective.

I’m a conscientious consumer because I don’t believe in capitalist liberal democracy but I also can’t escape it.

I prefer the economic and political ramifications of our actions as a more objective means of determining how one should conduct oneself.

When one thinks about anything for longer than your average commercial goes for, that something usually ends up revealing itself as quite bizarre.

Naturally, when my brain decided to launch itself at the whole meat-eating question a few years ago, I found myself in a position where I could no longer justify playing a role in that market.

I might be anti-capitalist, but I’m also a realist. A realist who likes the taste of flesh food.

Unfortunately for humanpeople, the dichotomisation of ideas severely hampers the ability the mind has to listen to and develop an understanding of the concepts and ideas of others without taking mental shortcuts that rest on implacable pre-conceived notions.

If you fuck a dude you must be a gayperson or a biperson, if you have a penis you are a manperson, if you wear a dress you are a womanperson, if you wear black you’re a gothperson, the list goes on.

The mental process for the humanperson when considering what it is to not play a part in the animal food conveyor belt goes a little something like this: People who don’t eat meat are vegetarians because they care more about animals’ feelings. This is usually closely followed up with a defensive outpouring of accusations of hypocrisy (‘oh, so your belt isn’t made of leather?’), which is to be expected when someone feels as though they’re sitting across from someone who is giving the impression that they have a moral high ground.

Well, I can’t help it that all my mates wearing Nikes and listening to A$ap Rocky makes me shitty.

For starters, I cannot empathise with a sheep. I refuse to impose any moralisms on the matter. Like most filthy animals, sheep are smelly and boring, and of all the animal sounds than animals make, the sound that sheep make is only the second most annoying animal sound (after the one that seagulls make).

But here are some facts: Some 40 per cent of the world’s land surface is used for the purposes of keeping all seven billion of us fed (to disproportionate degrees).

Thirty per cent of the word’s total ice-free surface is used to support the chickens, pigs and cattle that we eventually eat.

Americans eat 122kg of meat a year on average, while Bangladeshis eat 1.8 kg.

Meat consumption is very symbolic of how capitalism works, how important ignorance is to the preservation of the humanpeople’s comfort-zones, and how hard it is to change people’s minds about things that provide them personally with comfort or satisfaction.

This world we live in is shaped far more by the moneytokens one donates to the businesses that shape our every experience than liberal-democracy’s purporting of rule by the people through an almost arbitrary numbering of boxes on a piece of paper put in a box to be mis-counted or lost if you live in WA.

For the record, one should be proud to be a vegetarian – you really are doing a good thing.

But I can very comfortably say that my choice to be a conscientious consumer in all markets, and not just the one that controls what I put in my mouth, means that I try my best not to spend money on things that do more harm than good.

We are all hypocrites to some extent, but that doesn’t mean one ought to be completely defeatist. 

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.