as a pesco-vegetarian i am aware that my choice of diet rubs many people the wrong way. i am not going to elaborate the multitude of reasons i prefer vegetarianism, but will talk about how my choice has been met during the years. as background, i'll tell you i was vegan for some years and went through a strenuous internal battle of several years before i was able to begin eating fish again. i was well aware that my choice to go towards a carnivorous lifestyle was justified mostly by convenience.
during my vegan years in the mid to late 90's my lifestyle was obvious to anyone who sat down at a table with me. at home i baked my own bread and there were beans soaking in the kitchen. ordering at a restaurant was not easy and, thus, there was no way of hiding that i lived a life of decided deprivation. such a marginal lifestyle choice raised questions and i was more than willing to answer them. i gave people facts and figures when asked, and i was asked quite often.
at that point already i figured out how people respond to difficult ethical dilemmas: my sin at that point was taking photos (betcha many of you had no idea that film photography is not vegan) and after i, myself, brought it up as something to ease the pain of my fellow diners for acting too saintly in front of them, it was used against me ruthlessly. "hah, you're not perfect after all! you cannot judge us!"
when i gave up the vegan lifestyle and added eggs and milk to my diet, i became less of a threat to my carnivorous friends. it did not mean an end to the need to hear my justification for doing something "different" and discussions around my choice were still instigated by others than myself – i hardly had the need to point out the obvious to anyone. my presence created a discomfort especially among the most devout carnivores who claimed they had solid bases for their diets. they were most aggressively after my other flaws as if finding that i had imperfections was a justification for their own ignorance and negligence.
after the addition of fish to my diet i almost blend in. in many situations it is a relief: i can order at most restaurants and not cause any questions amongst my fellow diners. i've felt heart palpitations seeing the lunch menu fish option being crossed out and the only choices remaining consisting of beef and chicken – the knowledge that a need for possibly lengthy explanations will follow can sometimes feel devastating. despite vegetarians' relatively common existence these days, it's still not a natural choice among others but needs clarification.
the current debate over vegetarian school meals has stirred the views on vegetarianism the masses hold to the surface, and it isn't pretty. what bothers me most is that people seem to find the argument that no-one has the right to tell them what to do plausible – no matter what the facts are. some even go as far as saying that they'd be willing to eat vegetarian meals if they were offered, but because they are forced, they will object strenuously out of principle. because the people who suggested that a vegetarian day would be beneficial at schools irritate these individuals, they will oppose their ideas – an ad hominem, if i ever heard one.
the point is that carnivores know they are at fault. there are ethically better – even close to acceptable – ways to consume meat, but most finns do not belong to the elite niche who can choose free-range and organic. most buy whatever is cheapest even when they do not have to, and that is what bothers me. reminding them of their ethical shortcomings in any way – in my case by just acting differently – creates a turmoil that hardly counts as rational.
despite of my ability to keep my mouth shut and even going as far as concealing my diet in certain company, i cannot help but feel superior. after following the discussions of late, my pomposity has justifiably multiplied. as a former vegetarian who makes terrible consumer choices all the time i still know that predominantly my choices are better than those of people in general. tough, but it is the truth, and the truth seems to hurt. as much as some people will find me intolerably obnoxious for saying this, the lowest creature i can imagine is the person who chooses industry grown and produced chicken at the supermarket. there isn't a single justification for it. even poverty cannot justify eating those poor creatures that suffer their entire modest lives – there is always another option.
the ultimate test of your own diet is very, very simple. instead of going defensive and pointing the finger at the flaws of the many people who choose to be vegan, vegetarian or ethically aware carnivores (those snobs!), i suggest that every single person takes a critical look at the contents of their own plate. if knowing (and i mean really knowing) the production history of any part of your meal makes you uneasy, i suggest you do something about it. i already have, can you say the same about yourself?