Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A Veggisaurous Manifesto

My sister went veggie one Thanksgiving to annoy my grandmother (it worked). Later, she added some principles and declared "Nothing with eyes!"

("What about clams?" "Also no clams.")

I went veggie while riding the Boston subway one afternoon. It's a ridiculous story, but the honest truth. It happened like this: I was sitting in one of those plastic subway chairs on the Red Line, going into Cambridge, and studiously avoiding eye contact with other passengers – when I looked across the isle to see an unshaven, rather wild-looking man staring at me. It wasn't a pleasant stare.

"You should be alarmed right now," said I to myself. "Or at least uncomfortable."

But I wasn't, and when I started thinking about why I wasn't, I realized that if it came to anything unpleasant, I would fight like a cat, red in tooth and claw. And then, in one of those very strange flashes, I realized: so would a chicken.

It's not really an ethical stance. I know we're built to eat meat, and I think that's fine. But when I see packaged meat at the grocery now, I shudder. It really meant something to that animal – meant everything - and it means almost nothing to the people who will eat it. The ultimate horror is not to be killed for food, but to be killed for food by someone who is utterly bored with the process, for whom you're just one more meaningless pulled trigger in an 8-hour day of pulling triggers at a minimum-wage job. I would want the chance to take some handfuls of my attacker's hair, eyes, and flesh with me – to make sure my death meant something to him, if only some bloody scratches.

So when I got off the subway, I was a vegetarian. It's too bad, because I really love the taste of meat. If I could hunt the animal, put some effort into it, give its death some kind of meaning beyond a 50-cent-off coupon, I might go back – but the only animals around here I could hunt are the pigeons in the Boston Common, and, frankly, I prefer a good head of broccoli.

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