October 2011 was my tenth anniversary as a vegetarian. Wow – a whole decade without meat! I didn’t go “cold turkey”, but instead took about a year to wean myself off of flesh – first pork, then beef, then chicken. Several people have asked me why I became a vegetarian in the first place. Here’s the answer: I had a crush on a vegetarian. But, once the crush wore off, my motivation remained. I simply could not eat meat, knowing how it was produced.
I couldn’t be part of a system that profits while treating sentient beings as mere commodities. I couldn’t support an industry which produces so much waste and pollution. I simply couldn’t stomach the truth about the meat industry and the harm it causes – to animals, individuals and communities. There’s nothing delicious about animal cruelty, environmental degradation, and morbid obesity.
But last week, I hosted a party. And I ate chocolate covered bacon. And it was divine.
I made sure to source organic free-range bacon from a local farmer’s market, and I thought long and hard before my first bite. Could I still consider myself a vegetarian? Would I fall off the wagon and straight into a bacon addiction? It was time to find out. I watched the bacon sizzle until it started to char around the edges. I put a strip to my mouth. I bit in. It was astounding; long-forgotten childhood memories came flooding back to me! That salty, lip-smacking strip was all I needed to be transported back in time, to my father’s kitchen.
So, what now? Am I still a vegetarian? Sure. After 10 years of meat-free living, I’ve earned the right to follow the spirit, rather than the letter of the law. Being a vegetarian isn’t about scrutinizing every morsel; it’s about eating mindfully and with a focus on health. I know that despite my greasy indulgence, I’m still a vegetarian at heart - and I don’t need to cling to a “clean record” to prove it.
Vegetarianism doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing affair. Try instituting a “Meatless Monday” into your routine, or replace beef with beans, in your next pot of chili. Cut out your least favourite kind of meat, and start to buy organic or ethically produced versions of the meat you do enjoy. Visit the produce section and make an effort to buy something new or strange – there’s more to life than apples and oranges! Make small steps; vegetarianism happens one meal at a time.
There are 9 years and 11 months until my next “bacondulgence”. In the mean time, here's the book that convinced me to go vegetarian, and not turn back. Well, at least no more than once a decade.
Diet for a New America, by John Robbins