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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

Special Article Done! and Thoughts on Vegementalists

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet

"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Special Article Done! and Thoughts on Vegementalists

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yavanna earth
My special article for DS is d-u-n done! I just sent it off--and an invoice for an astronomical rate--to the editorial staff. The title of the article ended up being "The Balanced Diet: Becoming an Eco-Friendly Vegetarian." Maybe next time I'll do Elves. ;) If I'm being given a more-public-than-usual platform, however, and a higher-than-usual degree of creative freedom, then I felt I should do something socially responsible. Idealism and all that.

The article ended up being one of those deceptively difficult articles: I know the subject quite well, but it's not enough for me to spout off with ideas and statistics remembered off the top of my head, so I had to track down sources--some of them first read 14 years ago--to back up what I was saying. This is hardly a complaint. I love research when it's something I care about and, as usual, I ended up learning quite a few new things while tracking down sources for the familiar.

One of the things I needed to illustrate is how idiotic naive uninformed single-minded the vegementalist movement can be in excluding sustainability concerns from their reasoning. When I say "vegementalist," I don't mean vegetarians or even vegans: Obviously not, as I am myself a vegetarian, have been for 16 years, and have no plans to change until I can behead a chicken on my own, and given that I got lightheaded looking at pedicure products in Target the other day, I don't think that's soon forthcoming. However, I'm not a vegementalist; meat eaters don't dread my sneers and comments about their meals, and I can even cook a mean piece of meat, in my mom's memorable words. I'm talking about the people who bleat out "meat is murder" in response to any attempt to discuss our country's food system and who think honey and manure are produced via exploitation on the order of human slavery.

Since I needed an illustration of how these people think, where to go but PETA? Ah, PETA--we had a brief fling when I was 12 and handed over $15 of my allowance to you for a dubious membership in your organization (only to be pestered for the next ten years with the same "survey" about animal rights as you attempted to squeeze more "memberships" from me) before I realized how ridiculous you were and dangerous your ideas. I realize that picking on PETA is like shooting a fish in a barrel ... and there, yes, I begin flailing wildly down the slippery slope of speciesism, where I will soon be beating dead horses, throwing stones at birds, and skinning cats in more than one way. Or maybe voicing the whispered thought that all meat eaters aren't evil or murderers. (Maybe even marrying one!)

So I was poking around PETA's Vegetarian Starter Kit and, on page 6, I ran smack into the reason why vegementalists annoy me so badly. While inviting omnivores to "make the transition" to a vegetarian diet (actually, they lure you in with "vegetarian" and then mostly propose veganism), PETA helpfully suggests eating "faux meats and dairy" and "vegan microwaveable meals." In fact, as I pointed out in my article, among their many meal suggestions, only two can be made fresh with ingredients most U.S. vegetarians could find locally or grow on their own. There is a preponderance of soy cheese and fake meat--in short, processed foods.

Seriously, PETA? I wonder sometimes where they think all that processed food comes from--or more like, where they think the energy for all that processed food comes from. I suppose they think the millions of barrels of oil BP pumped into the Gulf last spring was in the name of other people's oil habit. But then, these are the same people who, with a straight face, make the argument that humans weren't meant to eat meat because most people cook it first. And then suggest soy "meats" as an alternative. Because eating soybeans raw is great idea. (And how does soybean processing compare to steak tartare--or even steak well done?)

Anyway, yes yes, I know that this just illustrates once again the disconnect that exists between the radical animals rights movement and reality of the animals they claim to love so much and the world in which those animals live. Because in their happy little world, we're degrading our topsoil, pouring petrochemical fertilizers into our waterways, dousing with poison the soybeans we will ship one thousand miles to be mangled into "tasty faux meats and dairy" and "vegan microwaveable meals," then shipping them another few thousand miles so that some self-righteous vegan can chow down on one in his climate-controlled condo ... but at least no animals were murdered to make this product! Right?

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

  • I absolutely agree with this. It's just such a narrow world-view it's infuriating. Luckily I have yet to encounter *that* type of vegan/vegetarian IRL.

    It's actually been on my mind lately after a customer question at work on Saturday. (I work in a fish and chip shop.) She asked if the chips are vegetarian. Well... yes, they are. They're not cooked with the fish or anything else. But - they're cooked in palm oil. Which was grown at the cost of thousands of acres of natural habitats. Sigh.
    • Tux! It's been a really long time! How have you been?

      A high school friend was one of those vegetarians. I don't know if she ever grew out of it or not. Luckily, these days, I mostly encounter them online. (Not because I pick fights with them or anything! 08^) A recent "discussion" involved one such person trying to explain to me how cruel I am for raising backyard chickens for eggs because didn't I know the males were killed for food?? I asked her to calculate the number of animals sacrificed for an acre of soy.

      In truth, I loathe those kinds of arguments; they're silly, petty pissing matches, but they're often the only way to reach people who think in such fundamentalist absolutes.
      • Too long! I actually paused before commenting becuase it had been so long, lol. I'm pretty good, now I seem to be getting over all the nasty winter bugs! How about you? :)

        I agree... it's the sort of arguement that makes you feel like you're back at school, but it's the only thing that works!

        BTW I envy you your chickens. A friend has some and we get eggs every so often. Our garden isn't big enough for them, I wish it was. The eggs always taste better.

        Edited at 2010-12-14 02:07 am (UTC)
        • We're getting over a nasty winter bug here too. Right after replying to this comment last night, I went to sleep for 11 hours! O.O But that seems to have done the trick.

          Life is busy here: I'm working full-time as a freelance writer and finishing up my teaching certification, so that doesn't leave much time to spare for creative writing, unfortunately. ._.

          The chickens are great; we're not getting eggs from them now because they just finished molting and the days are too short, but we got a few before the molting began, and that was great. They're fun to have, regardless! :)
  • Dawn, you need to read a short story by Mercedes Lackey called Last Rights." It's a hilarious look at this subject and the consequences of rampant idiocy. It's so appropriate for this post. If you like, I can email you a .PDF copy of it that I have.
  • I love the idea of your article, I think it's an excellent choice. A very vegetarian person in my extended family once told her children something that prompted them to tell their cousins, my children (my oldest daughter was 4 or 5 years old at the time), that they (we) were evil people for eating meat.

    I hope you get more opportunities for writing other extended articles soon!

  • Oh, I agree so much! And I think it´s wonderful for someone to be able to look beyond the narrow world of many and put all those facts forwards. I don´t think vegamentalism is as much about truly saving the world than about feeling good yourself (And believing yourself better than others).
    • I totally agree. The pissing matches I've seen on vegetarian forums would be funny if they people engaged in them weren't serious. It goes something like,

      HappyVeg: OMG meat is murder
      Veg4Life: But you eat eggs. Hypocrite.
      HappyVeg: Only free range. :)
      Veg4Life: Don't you know what happens to the boy chickens? They kill them for meat, therefore, your murdering too.
      HappyVeg: But you feed your dog meat.
      Veg4Life: But you feed your cat meat.
      HappyVeg: But you once ate a soup with a piece of bacon that fell into accidentally.

      Okay, I've not actually seen the last one, but I have seen people fight over who's morally superior: the one who eats eggs or the one who feeds her pets meat. Or wears leather, uses manure, eats honey ...
      • Sigh. Being a food intolerant, sometimes I really can't understand how people can be so dogmatic about things that ....well, really, I understand vegetarianism and I think it's a wonderful choice, but come on, nothing is going to happen to you or the world if a piece of bacon falls into your soup! Perspective, anyone?
  • What a wonderful idea for your article. I was vegan for several years and enjoyed it a lot, but went back to eating whatever for a variety of reasons, none of which are germane to this post :-))

    I have to agree with you about what I call ripple effect. One small stone causing many more effects such as one square of tofu equaling much processing. We live in a world of choices and even if we choose to leave a small footprint, we are still leaving one. It cannot be totally escaped.

    - Erulisse (one L)
    stepping off my small soapbox now...
    • I like your soapbox. :) I agree totally. There is no life without impact; every living thing leaves some form of impact by its existence. I think the dualist delusion that there can be "good/bad," "moral/immoral," or "sustainable/unsustainable" rather than a continuum between all of those points and no absolutes creates the vegementalist mentality where they have the Answers and the obligation to show the rest of us the Way.
      • I absolutely agree with you. It's been a pleasure to read the original post and the commentaries that have been posted.

        - Erulisse (one L)
  • Also, all that energy and fuel wasted in processing and shipping to create . . . spongy-textured, salty fake "meat" that tastes nothing like the real thing. Yeah, no. If I'm going to eat a vegetarian meal, I'm going to eat a vegetarian meal, made from products that are not meat and do not pretend to be meat, thank you kindly.

    I have quite a varied and tasty vegetarian repertoire, since meat is expensive and the vegetables at my local mom'n'pop semi-organic supermarket are just so damn good. But on days when I want meat, let it be real, honest meat.
    • So much THIS.

      There are billions of fantastic vegetarian recipes, I'll never understand how people feel the need for fake "meat". Tofu can actually be tasty, but not when it's dressed up and cooked as a sausage...
      • I started to like tofu after two things happened: 1) I found a couple of Asian or Asian-inspired recipes for it that really knew how to use it to best advantage, and 2) I learned how to press it before using it. Now I have two or three regular tofu recipes in my repertoire and several others where "protein of some variety" is an ingredient, and sesame-roasted tofu could appear just as easily as the meat or fish that the recipe suggests.

        I'm particularly fond of a vegetarian variation of ma po tofu that appears in the Ethnomusicologists' Cookbook. (Yes, this is a real cookbook.)
  • Congrats on getting it done!
  • BUT DAWN!! Animals everywhere are crying out against The Man: "Stop using our sh*t!"

    That horses are some of the most wasteful eaters because they won't eat where they've sh*t and they sh*t everywhere is beside the point...
  • I'm so with you on this. I can see the logic in people turning vegetarian or vegan for environmental or ethical reasons if they've fully done the research and worked out the costs/benefits of their choices and how it'll impact on animals, the environment and welfare in general...but sometimes it seems a little knowledge can be more dangerous than none at all! The best way to ruin the credibility of your "side" - e.g. the anti-meat movement - is to make a whole pile of claims about the evils of meat whilst at the same time continuing to do/eat something that's even more environmentally unsound or ethically dubious!

    And as for processed meat substitutes and soy cheeses and so on...I'm sure they have their place but there are so many other delicious vegan/veggie foods out there that are MUCH nicer, cheaper and easier to obtain without huge processing costs.

    My take is that I don't mind if people eat meat or don't eat meat, but personally I feel that if I'm going to cause an animal to become dead, I have some sort of responsibility to try and ensure said animal was treated respectfully whilst it was alive. I'm not infallible, but I am trying!
  • I like your thought on how you won't eat meat until you can behead a chicken yourself. I'm not a vegetarian (and I couldn't behead a chicken either), but still I'm seeing how people have developed a rather unnatural attitude towards eating meat which in part is to blame on it coming in clean, nice packages in the supermarket. Many people don't even think about the fact that what they're eating was a live animal once, they're happy as long they have their schnitzel on the plate thrice a week or so.

    That said, I don't see a problem in eating meat. But I do see a huge problem in our modern attitude towards it. A whole lot of people in Germany want to have a piece of meat in their meals each day and they want it cheap which is enviromental insanity (and not so very healthy at all). Well, I like meat, but I'm keeping the amount I'm eating on a level that in my opinion is enviromentally responsible and I try not to support factory farming (I say "try" because it's not that easy, what with all the nice, clean packages).

    And seriously, as a kind of "part-time vegetarian" (yeah, it's a silly expression, but I hope you know what I mean) I never understood the notion of faux meats and all those silly soy chicken legs (no kidding, they exist! There's even faux duck meat in Asia which imitates the complete structure of a duck breast...). Apart from the enviromental aspect: If I made the conscious decision to not eat meat anymore, I wouldn't want to have anything that tries to imitate meat either. That's crazy. Especially since there's so many nice, fresh products out there you can cook in so many ways. I don't get it.

    And yes, once again I'm still alive. I fear I haven't really been following all you wonderful people attentively, so mostly I have no idea (sorry!) what you are doing at the moment, I've been horribly busy (but from January on, I have a real job, yay!).
  • The radical animal rights people don't live in reality. That's their problem.

    (Ever notice how many of them are life-long urbanites/suburbanites? There's a reason for that. Rural life tends to strip away the sort of illusions that the radical animal rights movement relies upon.)
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