Friday, August 31, 2012

Food Superiority/Inferiority Complex?

I was recently annoyed by an article I read in an NPR blog by Barbara J. King.  It wasn't Ms. King who was annoying, but the topic she was attempting to address.  I don't think she ever did adequately address the topic and so I will!

Are vegetarians and vegans suffering from huge superiority complexes because we are choosing to eat the way we eat?  Or, maybe we need to ask: Are omnivores suffering from inferiority complexes when in the presence of vegetarians/vegans? 

The one aspect of this question that Ms. King addressed was the disparity in a culture that purports to love animals and yet most of those we eat are treated quite cruelly.  I tried to learn more about this phenomenon in a book called Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat:  Why it's so Hard to Think Straight about Animals by Hal Herzog.  Maybe someone can read this and give me the gist of his theory, because I couldn't finish the book due to the stories which were too much for me.  It is necessary to categorize our animals to justify what we do in this world.  Those that refuse to do so are considered extremists (PETA).  Those of us in the less extreme areas of the spectrum are still often treated with derision or scorn, as seen in the comments on the NPR blog.

Another aspect of food choice is what is and is not good for the planet and our own health.  Some of us choose to pay attention to what we can do to live "Green" lifestyles, but the truth is, not everyone can, nor wants to.  There are economics involved.  There are political barriers.  There is knowledge and information not being shared widely.  It's important to get the information and the knowledge out there, it's important to create economic access, and it's important to create policies that allow access for those who want it, but in the end, everyone gets to choose. 

I don't want to minimize the huge consequences of choice.  As if a choice is no big deal, because a choice can lead to immense consequences.  It is hard to accept someone else's choice when it affects you and your family.  I could get very angry and frustrated with the food system.  My beliefs are that as it stands, it is making us sick, creating global warming, torturing animals, and destroying livelihoods and employment.  Yes, I make choices that follow those beliefs.  But I have loved ones who don't have those beliefs, don't care, don't believe aspects of my knowledge are true and continue to do what I believe is detrimental to their own health and the planet's health.  That's the truth of how life works in living among multiple beings. 

Here's another rub.  I am not going to pretend that my choice to eat non-meat sources is not affecting the planet or the animals living here.  Animals, especially small ones, die due to farming practices.  Wilderness areas are compromised.  This is true whether the practice is organic or not.  Organic farms do minimize the damage and the hurt, but it's definitely happening.  No one is a purist.

When I speak about my choice to become vegetarian, some people do get defensive.  I am not sure why they ask about my choice, if they are unhappy with the answers or feel defensive toward their own food choices.  And why do they feel defensive?  I can theorize that it's inferiority, but come on, not everyone who has defended meat eating is having an inferiority complex! 

My theory is that is like bumper stickers and T-shirts.  We like have others see and read our beliefs, whether they be plastered to our cars or printed all over our clothing, or we come right out and say or write them.  It is a sense of pride, perhaps?  A need to identify - "This is who I am!"  Those in the minority or the opposing view tend to get sneers, sometimes all in good fun and sometimes not so nice.  This seems to me to be the best answer.  In our internet culture, it is even more so as we feel the need to plaster our opinions on every blog.

I think it is important to know that every vegetarian or vegan makes a very personal choice about what it is they will and will not eat, as does every omnivore.  It's based on their beliefs and what they can handle in their lifestyle.  It's based on experience and knowledge.  End of story. 

We all have the right to make those choices, write about those choices, talk about those choices and live those choices.  Yup, some people are real pains in the a-- when they discuss their choices.  That's true in food, politics, religion, any topic.  Too bad!  That's what we have created in this country!  That's how we grow and expand and learn!  The extremists stretch things, make the impossible sometimes possible, make new view points that never existed, and drive us all a bit crazy.  Without them - many of us wouldn't be here - we'd be off in the countries from which our ancestors travelled, living a whole other existence.

So the next time you come across a person with a lifestyle/viewpoint different from yours, decide on a different stance than the usual.  Let yourself expand a little.  Take in a bit of new information and see what you think, see how you grow, see what new things might be worth considering....

Tell me what you think about this topic!

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