Wednesday, November 21, 2012

31 Days of Vegetarianism

Out of interest, I decided to try being vegetarian for a month. (Not vegan though - that $#!^ is wack, yo.) Partly this is due to lingering ethical concerns on the subject. The other reasons were a self-control aspect, and a social experiment aspect - just seeing what it would be like.

I can report back on a few observations in relation to said experiment:

-I didn't end up missing the taste of meat very much - certainly not when it wasn't around, and even when it was in front of me it wasn't hard to do without. The bigger issue, in fact, was remembering not to eat meat. I had to restart the month (twice!) because I ate meat without thinking about it. In normal meal situations it was easy enough to remember, but things were harder when you came across food in non-meal contexts and weren't thinking about it.  The first was with Athenios at Chick-Fil-A where I ate one of his nuggets without thinking about it, and the second was at SH's party where I ate a meat hors d'oeuvre before cursing myself about 20 minutes later. Both of these were within the first week, and afterwards I got used to it.

-The much bigger inconvenience wasn't the foregone taste, but rather the impact on the available choices when eating out. You can't just go to any of your regular restaurants without checking whether they have anything reasonable, and some places (e.g. Korean BBQ) are essentially ruled out altogether. Even at the places you could eat at, there was a huge reduction in choice. It's being in East Berlin wearing a grey polyester suit and peering across at the Armani store on the other side of the wall. I feel seriously bad for vegans.

-I note in passing that virtually nobody takes any kind of intermediate position on vegetarian ethics. Attitudes tend to fall into one of:
a) Eating animals is a-ok!
b) I suspect eating animals may be wrong but I like the taste and convenience, so I just avoid thinking about the ethical angle.
c) I think eating animals is wrong, so I abstain altogether.

Both a) and c) are entirely consistent. b) is the more interesting one - it doesn't make sense as a logical position, unless you think about the cognitive dissonance aspect.

To illustrate the point, consider the alternative intermediate position between a) and c)

b2) I suspect eating animals may be wrong but I like the taste and convenience, so I try to eat less meat than I otherwise would.

Makes sense, right? If killing chickens is bad, we should stop altogether, but it's still an improvement to only kill 10 instead of 20 if you can't or won't give up altogether.

Nobody thinks this way though. So why not?

Simple - the cognitive dissonance would be enormous. You'd have to constantly be facing up to the fact that you're doing something you think is somewhat wrong. You'd be reminded of this every time you considered whether to eat meat, and likely would feel somewhat guilty whenever you gave in.

And you can't have that. No man is the villain in his own narrative.

Hence people opt to just not think about it.

Nobody wants to see how the sausage is made.

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