When talking about my own reasons and choices to become a vegetarian, I’ve encountered 3 major misconceptions of surrounding this practice. One sees them also in smart, friendly, kind people. And it’s not necessarily surprising: many haven’t seriously thought about the problem of eating factory farmed animals. So here they are (you tell me what you make of them).
1) He can’t eat meat.
I can eat meat, but I decided not to. I enjoy meat actually: it’s just that the pleasure I have when tasting meat cannot possibly justify the suffering involved in the process. Some of my friends, for example, are even careful in not mixing up the cutlery that might have touched meat, to make sure I don’t ingest a single meaty molecule. I appreciate their kind attention, although of course it misses the point. It’s not like a poison that harms me, I am not allergic to meat. In fact it’s not about me not ingesting meat, at all! It’s about not participating in, or being responsible for, suffering.
2) Fine as long as vegetarians don’t impose their views.
This is probably the most frequent and most serious misconception about what it means to consider oneself a vegetarian (or somthing close to that). If the issue is one about animal suffering, and if one thinks it matters, then one should try to stop it. In first place by changing one’s own behavior, but in second place by changing others. To call for action is the natural consequence of being engaged in a worthy cause. Who would dare tell someone protesting racism: “don’t impose your views on others” ?
3) Well then they’re not a vegetarian
Labels are rarely useful. People who consider going outside conventions and start considering animal suffering in their food choices often stop themselves from doing anything because they fear that can’t go all the way. Yet doing something is certainly better than doing nothing. In caricature terms: two half vegetarians are as good as one vegetarian. This should be a trivial observation: failing to recycle 10% of your trash is not the same as not recycling (it doesn’t make you a “non recycler”). When considering “vegetarian” and “not vegetarian” it’s worth remembering: it’s not about labels, it’s about actions one can take at every step of the way in our life here.
We each might have different experiences about vegetarianism, but it’s something one can learn about and a practice one can take. And we are responsible for the choices we make, even buying food.
So, I invite others to join this simple practice. As I see it, it’s not something I happen to be, It’s something I’ve chosen to do. And you can too of course. Not necessarily perfectly, but the best we can.