Meatless Like Me
I may be a vegetarian, but I still love the smell of bacon.
For those kind-hearted omnivores who willingly invite feral vegetarians into their homes for dinner parties and barbecues (really! we do that, too!), the same rule applies—but also know that unless you're dealing with an herbivore who is a prick for unrelated reasons, we don't expect you to bend over backward for us. In fact, if we get the sense that you cooked for three extra hours to accommodate our dietary preferences, we will marvel at your considerate nature, but we will also feel insanely guilty. Similarly, it's very thoughtful of you to ask whether it'll bother me if I see you eat meat, but don't worry: I'm not going to compose an epic poem about your club sandwich.
Which leads me to a vital point for friendly omnivore-herbivore relations. As you're enjoying that pork loin next to me, I am not silently judging you. I realize that anyone who has encountered the breed of smug vegetarian who says things like, "I can hear your lunch screaming," will find this tough to believe, but I'm honestly not out to convert you. My girlfriend and my closest pals all eat meat, and they'll affirm that I've never even raised an eyebrow about it. Now, do I think it strange that the same people who dress their dogs in berets and send them to day spas are often unfazed that an equally smart pig suffered and died to become their McMuffin? Yes, I do. (Or, to use a more pressing example, how many Americans will bemoan Eight Belles' fatal Kentucky Derby injury tonight at the dinner table between bites of beef?) Would I prefer it if we at least raised these animals humanely? Yes, I would.
Let's be honest, though: I'm not exactly St. Francis of Assisi over here, tenderly ministering to every chipmunk that crosses my path. I try to represent for the animal kingdom, but take a look at my shoes—they're made of leather, which, I am told by those with expert knowledge of the tanning process, comes from dead cows. This is the sort of revelation that prompts meat boosters to pick up the triumphant lamb shank once again and accuse us of hypocrisy. Well, sort of. (Hey, you try to find a pair of nonleather dress shoes.) My dedication to the cause might be incomplete, but I'd still say that doing something beats doing nothing. It's kind of like driving a hybrid: not a solution to the global-warming dilemma but a decent start. Let's just say that at the dinner table, I roll in a Prius.
Finally, grant me one more cordial request: Please don't try to convince us that being vegetarian is somehow wrong. If you're concerned for my health, that's very nice, though you can rest assured that I'm in shipshape. If you want to have an amiable tête-à-tête about vegetarianism, that's great. But if you insist on being the aggressive blowhard who takes meatlessness as a personal insult and rails about what fools we all are, you're only going to persuade me that you're a dickhead. When someone says he's Catholic, you probably don't start the stump speech about how God is a lie created to enslave the ignorant masses, and it's equally offensive to berate an herbivore. I know you think we're crazy. That's neat. But seeing as I've endured the hassle of being a vegetarian for several years now, perhaps I've given this a little thought. So let's just agree to disagree and get on with making fun of Hillary Clinton's inability to operate a coffee machine.
Because, really, peace and understanding are what it's all about: your porterhouse and my portobello coexisting in perfect harmony—though preferably not touching. We're actually not so different, after all, my omnivorous chums. In fact, I like to think that when an omnivore looks in the mirror, he just sees a vegetarian who happens to eat meat. Or, no, wait, maybe the mirror sees the omnivore through the prism of flesh and realizes we all have a crystalline animal soul, you know?
This is excellent weed, by the way, if you want a hit. Hey, while you're here: Have I ever told you about hemp?
Taylor Clark is a writer based in Portland, Oregon. His most recent book is Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool.
Illustration by Mark Alan Stamaty.