Idle Thoughts About Vegetarianism
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Kim Stallwood on Animals and Society Institute
October 2009

In an idle moment (admittedly not as a rare as I would like to think they are but still rare nonetheless) I found myself deducting the number 1974 from 2009 and thinking about the result: 35. This is the number of years I've been a vegetarian; 33 of which as vegan. Frankly, it surprised me. Of course, I know I've been a vegetarian for a long time but it seems so much longer now having done the math. So, it's true: as you get older time appears to pass more quickly than how it does when you're younger.

In another idle moment I thought it would be interesting to calculate the number of animals I haven't eaten during this time. Someone needs to put together a Web site, much like those that estimate your carbon footprint, which calculates the number of animals not eaten during a year as a vegetarian or vegan.

At times I think being vegetarian and vegan has come a long way since the mid-1970s. At other times, however, the glass (or should I say plate?) seems very much to be half-empty. I become angry and frustrated at times when, for example, there's nothing on a menu to eat at a particular restaurant I'm interested in trying or why is it hard to find thick socks without wool in them? Yes, at a personal level, it seems easier but why does it also feel the world is going to hell in a hand basket?

There is no excuse, I believe, in not being at least a vegetarian and preferably vegan. It's not as if anyone's life depends upon it other than the lives of animals eaten. Enough nutritionists and dieticians as well as evidence of vegetarians and vegans themselves show that it is as healthy if not healthier than a non-vegetarian diet. The only remaining excuse is stubbornness, lack of care and taste preferences. These selfish reasons are, in my mind, the hardest to overcome when I discuss vegetarianism with meat-eaters. I like it, they exclaim. Then, I usually end up making a sarcastic remark about how I wished children still worked in factories (which, of course, they do in some countries) if they want to eat meat. Often, my ironic subtlety is lost on them. In other words, there's really no point in debating it any longer if that's what they think.

So, should vegetarianism become law? Of course, my inner compassionate dictator warms nicely to this idea. Lifestyle prohibitions rarely work well, however.

So, my aspiration is to see 35 years from now meat-eating viewed by society as it now sees the consumption of tobacco: a dangerous habit which causes considerable human morbidity and mortality worthy of regulatory and legislative efforts to severely curtail it.

Perhaps, then, I will not only feel smug, as I do now, about being proven correct all these years when the latest report documents vegetarianisms relevance to promoting human health and preventing environmental catastrophe but I can also feel proud that the world I live in ridded itself of what is, essentially, a fatal disease for humans, animals and the environment.

Perhaps not such an idle thought after all.

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