Meet My Meat-Free Life

Picture it: fall 2008.  I had just started graduate school and was meeting all kinds of new people and having new experiences.  I had made myself a list of 101 things to do/try in 1,001 days (I didn’t make this up…here’s one example).  Some of them were silly or just fun but a lot of them had to do with intentional growth or were spiritual disciplines I wanted to try.

(Spoiler: I never finished the list.  But it’s the journey, right?)

I had been curious about vegetarianism for a while – and had been turning up my nose for years at the raw red meat my step-mom would make me form into patties – and figured that depriving myself of something I enjoyed could be a good spiritual discipline.  Because at this time, I did enjoy chicken and tuna and sausage.

Plus, I had just met and was making friends with a real live vegetarian at my new school. Yes, it’s true.  I’m assuming I’d made contact with other meat abstainers earlier in my life, but growing up first in Amish country and then suburban central, one didn’t encounter vegetarians a lot.  I remember asking her lots of questions about the food she ate and how this choice affected her life.  It was fascinating and eye-opening.

Back to the list project: one of the items I included on the list of 101 things was to not eat meat for two weeks.  I thought two weeks would be the perfect amount of time to deprive myself of meat and know the Lord.

(I’m being a little facetious…but that’s still probably somewhat true since I was only 20 at the time of this story.)

I decided to commit to the two weeks; I had it all planned out.  If memory serves me correctly, my last meat meal was a chicken quesadilla at my 21st birthday dinner in November 2008.

I don’t remember any flashes of light or intense spiritual revelations in those two weeks. But I do remember it feeling really right.  I identified and was in tune with my body in a way I’d never been before.  I started reading more about meatless diets and lifestyles and becoming more informed.  I realized this is something I was made for: abstaining from meat.

I haven’t eaten meat since.  I’ll have my eight year veg-a-versary on November 20th.

Now, I never expected this to happen.  If you’d told me when I was composing this list of 101 things to try that I’d never eat meat again, I’d have laughed in your face while simultaneously stuffing a chicken tender into my mouth.  This was never my plan or my expectation.

And yet, here we are.  Here I am.  Meatless and fancy free.

You may be wondering about now why you’re reading about my vegetarian origin story on a feminist blog.  What a great wondering, wise readers.

I’ll let you in on the secret: all of life is connected.  All creation.  Really truly.  I am a firm believer in the one human family.  I am also a believer in the connectedness and interdependence of all life.  A balanced ecosystem only exists when all of life can live in harmony.  We need animals just as much as we need other humans.  I do not believe animals are here for us in the 21st century to eat.

Being vegetarian means I do not contribute to factory farms, for example.  Which means I do not contribute to the cruel and terrible lives and deaths those animals experience – in addition to not contributing to one of the worst climate problems our nation knows.

By striving to treat the earth better, I am trying to honor future generations of my family.  By trying to treat animals kindly, I am saying even those with culturally diminished voices deserve life free from violence.  There is so much I can’t control, but I can so easily control what I put in my body.  And as a woman who has not had a life free from violence (aka: simply, a woman), if there’s a way I can refrain from contributing to widespread violence and hurt, I will try it.

The end game of my feminism is the liberation and equity of all those minimalized, those systematically abused, and those taught that they are less worthy than others.

And so we are clear: I do not value the life of a cow greater than the life of my sisters and brothers.  But the really beautiful thing is I don’t have to choose.  I can very easily be a vegetarian while also advocating for peace in Colombia and Planned Parenthood funding in the U.S.  We are all connected and I am in a country and culture where I can easily not eat meat and also fight for equality.  (A post about vegetarianism being a privilege to perhaps come at a later date.)

I am a feminist vegetarian.  I’m vegetarian because I thought I’d give it a try once for a couple weeks and never looked back.  Because it is good and right and lovely to me.  Really, I was vegetarian before I was a feminist.  My practice of loving animals and the earth brought me to my practice of knowing myself and other women (and people of color, and non-cis folks and non-Americans and and and) as worthy of equality and a life free from violence and exploitation.

Maybe now is the time to give something a try for a couple weeks.  Something you’re curious about or have been meaning to experience.  You never know how it might change you.

This post brought to you by:

  • Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
  • My sister who sent me a care package of vegan foods when I tried veganism for a couple years.
  • My dear friend from grad school, A.  My first vegetarian friend.
  • The gorgeous cows I met last night (and all the cows I’ve met along the way)
  • The veggie cookbooks at my local library
  • Trader Joe’s meat free “sausage” patties
  • The Colombian women who made me heaps of rice and eggs and arepas last summer and never thought twice about it.
  • The many people who say I’ve influenced their decision to become vegetarian – it’s really you who inspire me and my hope in humanity.

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