I don’t eat meat, but I don’t care if you do

Even in the hyper-liberal city of San Francisco, I get a lot of negative reactions when I say I don’t eat meat. People assume I’m going to judge them if they eat meat in front of me, or that I think I’m better than them because I prefer not to.

While I’m sure there’s plenty of vegetarians who are judgmental or pretentious, not every vegetarian is. I prefer not to eat meat because I personally don’t like the idea of ingesting something that used to be alive and walking around, but I realize that eating meat is, in many cases, the healthier choice. Everyone is different, which means that everyone’s lifestyle is different, and I think it’s ridiculous for anyone to expect everyone to eat or not eat the same things.

I decided I wanted to stop eating meat when I was 4 years old. I was eating a hot dog while watching a PBS special on lions, and the show depicted a zebra prancing along the plain, doing its zebra thing, and then all of a sudden a lion attacked it, and it was a bloody carcass on the ground. I looked at my hot dog, and realized that it used to be an animal, and then it was a bloody carcass, and now it was in my hand.

My parents looked at me a little funny when I explained this, but the next day, when we went to a potluck hosted by my preschool and I ate three hot dogs and then spent all night throwing them up, my parents decided I could give vegetarianism a try.

They raised my younger brother as a vegetarian too, until two years ago when he got into weight-lifting, and it’s not only almost impossible, but also borderline dangerous to use up that much energy without eating meat.

Even without lifting weights, trying to be a vegetarian can definitely be extra work. I was anemic for most of my life and had to take iron pills with every meal, and I have to try extra hard to make sure I eat lots of tofu and other protein-rich foods, but for me, it’s worth it.

If I had a nickel for every time I went to get food with someone and they got something with chicken or pepperoni and then mockingly said, “Oh, wait, you might want to look away when I eat this,” I would have enough money to create a type of vegetarian hot dog that isn’t absolutely disgusting.

I don’t think it’s right to give anyone any flack for what they choose to put in their bodies, and that goes for vegetarians, meat eaters or any other iteration of the two that’s popular that week. For me personally, I’m content to fry up some tofu and veggies and call it a day, but it doesn’t bother me at all to watch you go to town on a hamburger. You do you, and Imma do me.

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  • And I don’t beat my child, but I don’t care if you beat yours. Oh wait, yes I do. There’s a reason why some vegetarians and vegans are more vocal than others. We’re speaking out against cruelty and injustice. You can call that being pretentious or judgmental if you like, but this world and all its social movements and political discussions involve someone speaking out. “Never be Silent” is my preference–women didn’t get the right the vote, and slavery didn’t end, because everyone sat silently and minded their own business. Apathy helps the oppressor, not the victim.

    Animals, as you know, are treated cruelly and need people to speak up for them. We all have the choice between cruelty and compassion–what does it say about us if we choose to be cruel when we have the option to be kind?

    On a separate note, you many be interested to know that many professional bodybuilders and other athletes are vegan. Patrik Baboumian, who broke the world record for the most weight ever carried by a human being, is vegan and has even appeared in a PETA ad pointing out that some of the strongest animals in the world are plant-eaters: http://www.peta.org/blog/strongest-man-eats-plants-loves-animals/#foobox-1/0/Patrik-Baboumian-poster.jpg

    Clearly, you can build muscle on plant-based foods. Look at some of the other popular vegan athletes, including NFL player David Clark, Ultimate Fighting champ Mac Danzig, and all the bodybuilders on the PlantBuilt Vegan Muscle Team, to name just a few.

    I’m so glad you choose meatless meals. I hope you’ll encourage others to do the same, or at least take same time to research and promote all the benefits of eating meatless meals, so people can make informed choices.