My wife is a vegetarian. Has been for several years now. And I'm extremely proud of her because of it.
Being a vegetarian, even in the 21st Century, is very difficult, for a couple reasons. Try this: next time you go to Applebee's, see how many menu items you can spot that don't have meat in them. Some restaurants are getting better about offering vegetarian options (Burger King even has a veggie burger on the menu, believe it or not), but at most of these places vegetarians are left out in the cold. Much of the time, when we go out to eat, Jamie ends up with a side salad and a baked potato. And she has to ask the waiter to hold the bacon on both.
The hardest thing about being a vegetarian, though, is perception. When someone finds out Jamie is a vegetarian, they're stunned. No kidding - they're shocked. And I'm not talking about strangers, I'm talking about acquaintances, co-workers, even close friends and family. People have tried to talk her out of it. People have told her she's stupid for not eating meat. People have tried to convince her it's against the Bible's teachings to not eat meat.
People ask her why she's a vegetarian, and it's a complicated answer. But essentially, it was an ethical decision. Jamie loves animals, and she made a conscious choice that she'd rather not eat them.
And after decades of eating meat, Jamie stopped cold turkey (she even stopped eating cold turkey) and hasn't eaten meat since.
Jamie's my hero. She's the strongest person I've never known. I'm not that strong. I don't think I could ever stop eating meat.
But I think I've come up with a more ethical way to eat meat. Check it out:
The life of an animal has a certain value. Is the life of a rhinoceros more valuable than the life of an ostrich? Is the life of a beetle more valuable than the life of a walrus? A dog's life more valuable than a cat's?
I don't think so. I contend each life has the same value.
In order to eat meat, though, you must end a life, or consent to the ending a life.
Therefore, it would be better if that life could feed lots of people instead of one or just a few.
So I give you the Large Animals Only Diet.
Take a cow, for example. An average-sized cow can feed a whopping 1,400 people! By comparison, people who enjoy shrimp often eat 10-20 in one meal. It's obviously better to end one life to feed 1,400 than to end 20 lives to feed one.
Here is a simple list of "Good" and "Bad" options on the animal spectrum.
GOOD: Beef. It's truly what's for dinner, and it's the wisest option for Large Animals Only eaters. A butcher shop can get 1,400 eight-ounce servings of beef out of one cow.
GOOD: Pork. A pig can feed up to 200 people. And the varieties found in pork is impressive: ham, pork roast, ribs, and mother freakin' BACON.
BAD: Chicken. That sucks. Chicken is delicious. Fried chicken is possibly the greatest-tasting food on the face of the earth. But a chicken only feeds 2-5 people, so it's off-limits in the Large Animals Only Diet. However, there's another poultry option...
GOOD: Turkey. A turkey can feed anywhere from 10-25 people - not bad for a bird. And turkey is widely available; you can get a turkey sandwich pretty much anywhere.
BAD: Tiny Seafood. In addition to shrimp, clams, mussels and oysters are terrible choices in this diet system. If you value animal life, killing a dozen of them for your dinner is not a good thing to do. But if you need seafood...
GOOD: Large Fish. Tuna, salmon, swordfish and even large catfish are good choices and can feed large amounts of people each.
BAD: Lobster. A news story I read several years ago is really what sparked this idea for me. The story was about a gigantic lobster caught by a fishing boat. Experts estimated the lobster was alive when Abraham Lincoln was in office. What did they do with the ancient crustacean? They ate it. It troubles me to think that the lobster I get in my surf-and-turf could be a hundred years old. And besides that, one lobster usually only feeds one or two people.
As I wrote at the beginning, I'm not very strong. There's a good chance that next week I might run across an all-you-can-eat buffet and eat a holocaust's worth of crab legs. But I'm definitely going to be conscious of the above rules from now on when I eat.
The next time I'm at a restaurant, if I've narrowed down my menu choices to chicken wings or a hamburger. I'll take the burger. Medium rare, please.