Vegetarians: menaces to Darwin or peaceful protestors?

I confess to a weakness: I love steak. Having dealt with cows on a professional basis several times, I’ve learned that while they are alive they are bland, uninteresting, and frankly somewhat crude in their social habits. However, once dead and properly cooked they make an instant transition to delicious.

For many years, in fact, I stood firmly by the axiom that if God (presupposing that He, She, It, or They exist) didn’t mean for cows to be eaten, they wouldn’t be so tasty.

In recent times, however, I have suffered a change of heart. It seems to me that nature insists that we feast on the weaker creatures of the earth. It is a biological imperative, if you will – a duty to the other species of Earth to improve their stock by killing the slow and delicious.

On the other hand … there’s very little natural selection going on in a stockyard. Given the conditions there the only things evolving are strains of flu and heinous slime creatures that live in the drains of exsanguination chambers. (Don’t know what an exsanguination chamber is? Good.)

Nowadays the meatpacking industry has become distinctly despicable. In the face of images of stockyards where thousands of cattle shot-full of antibiotics and deranged by years of tenement living are killed with a hammer and then diced to quivering pieces, then served the a few weeks later at McDonald’s, it’s no wonder that many have decided on a meatless diet for purely moral reasons.

Being mostly devoid of morality, though, this never particularly impacted me. However, I was once a vegetarian. I had just seen some kind of documentary on chicken farming, and had also just finished raising a pig. (Her name was Lucy, she weighed about 200 pounds, and in retrospect, she was delicious. But it was psychologically traumatic at the time.)

I lived without meat for about two weeks, then fell off the bandwagon. I did, however, get two things out of the experience: a certain grudging respect for vegetarians who really stuck with it and really meant it, and a lifelong hatred of tofu in any form.

But there are still a few aspects of vegetarianism I oppose.

First, if you eat chicken or fish, you’re not a vegetarian. I’m sorry. Chickens are animals, and thus if you eat them, you are eating meat. Same goes for fish. Although they do not suffer quite the way chickens, cattle, or pigs suffer – they do suffer, believe me – they are still meat. Thus, if you eat them, you are not a vegetarian. Got it?

The other problem is more knotty – proselytic vegetarians. You know the breed. They look like sickly Jehovah’s Witnesses in tie-dye, and they stand outside of fast-food restaurants, glaring balefully at passersby, shooting laser-like guilt rays at the consumers within. Vegetarianism is a choice. Like owning a Volvo, or wearing clothes. As soon as you start getting sanctimonious about it, as soon as you start to force it on others, you become annoying.

In the end, it comes down to personal preference. Vegetarians have a valid point in not eating meat, whether because it bothers them to eat dead flesh or because they object to the process by which it is attained. However, since it’s part of our natural diet and conveniently, easily available, you can’t really look down on those who do not participate in the vegetarian revolution.

I’m going to continue eating steak, but as long as I don’t have to try it, people with tofu can still sit with me.