2017-12-28 – I have a friend who is a vegetarian. Well, more than a vegetarian. She is vegan. I’ve had various friends over the years who have been at various levels of vegetarianism and I really admire them. I couldn’t do it. More on that later.
My own experience with a dietary regimen was keeping kosher, which I did into my 30s. The Jewish practice of kashrut entails three main disciplines (this is not exhaustive but the main ideas): a discipline of permitted foods, a discipline of slaughter for permitted meats, and a discipline of preparation for all foods.
The discipline of permitted foods allows all types of vegetable foods, but focuses on meats. Mammals must have split hooves and chew their cud. That means that beef and lamb and deer are allowed, but pork is not (among others). Reptiles are prohibited. Among sea creatures, only fish with fins and scales are permitted. So trout, and cod, and tuna, and salmon are permitted (among others) but shark (no scales) and lobster and shrimp and clams and octopus (among others) are prohibited. Birds of prey are prohibited, but chicken, turkey, duck, and goose are allowed. Certain insects are permitted and others are prohibited, but I never had an interest in eating bugs, so I don’t know the particulars.
The discipline of slaughter requires land animals to be killed in a particular manner that was deemed in ancient days to be most painless. Some people debate whether kosher shechita is truly painless, but painlessness is the intention. It is quite obvious to me that shechita was instituted by people who were squeamish over the idea of killing animals for food and wanted to do the best they could for the animals.
The discipline of preparation has two parts. Meats require preparation to remove as much blood as possible through salting and washing (and certain parts may not be eaten or require additional special preparation). The second part requires that you not eat meats with any milk products.
This last point requires completely separate dishes and utensils for meat meals (fleishig) and for dairy meals (milchig). Vegetable foods are neither milchig nor fleishig and may be eaten with either type of meal and are called pareve.
Why am I telling you this?
It’s because a pareve meal is a vegan meal. They are one and the same. (Note: I overstated this here, but the point is the same). And a milchig meal is something that an ovo-lacto-pesco vegetarian could eat (for some reason, fish is not considered fleishig so it may be eaten at a dairy meal, as may eggs).
So, when we’re talking about vegetarian eating or vegan eating. I have some experience with that because of the milchig (or pareve) meals I ate for more than 30 years.
Could I go without eating fleishig (i.e, meat) for the rest of my life? It would be hard, but the discipline of kashrut that I followed for all those years makes me sympathetic to the vegan point of view and admiring of those who can manage it.
So what keeps me from doing it?
I’m not a big vegetable eater. I was a terribly picky eater as a kid. Over the years, I’ve improved a lot, but I’ve never gotten to the point where only vegetables would keep me alive. What I need are good recipes.
My vegan friend thinks I need to know more about the horrors of “modern” animal husbandry and more about how eating meat contributes to the degradation of the environment and to global climate change.
But I agree with her on all these points. That’s not what’s keeping me from giving up meat. What’s keeping me from giving up meat is a plan that can get me from where I am to where she wants me to be. Making that transition was easy for her. She is a very disciplined person. It’s not easy for me. I don’t need shaming. I need recipes.
I’m not going to give up meat cold-tofurky. But if I could learn some good recipes I could slowly reduce my meat consumption. I already eat less meat than I did as a kid. I may never get to zero, but I could go pretty far. (And there was no hope I could become vegan until Ben and Jerry started coming out with non-dairy flavors.)
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My eating habits are not really the point of this post. What I’m talking about here is how we go about persuading others. You see it all the time in political debates. We condemn our opponents rather than entice them.
We love to condemn. We get such a rush from condemning others that it doesn’t really matter that we haven’t persuaded anybody. It doesn’t even matter that our condemnation often drives other people away.
Right wingers like to call liberals baby-killers. Left wingers love to call the right racist and stupid. Few offer recipes for compromise or enticements to understanding. You’d think that would be the way to go.
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