After running out of “the weather is so nice/bad/romantic/it’s raining and how’s your new job coming along”, the all inevitable, if a little ironic, favourite topic of conversation (read: debate) over dinner tables and elsewhere happens to be ‘veg vs non veg’. It always opens up a can of worms! (which in the context wouldn’t be such a bad thing depending on which side you’re on.)
A typical veg vs non veg conversation with me goes like this:
“Are you veg or non veg”?
“Veg from birth”?
“Yes” (though, technically, noone is vegetarian from birth since the mother’s milk or any milk is not exactly vegetarian) but yes born into a vegetarian family. Still a vegetarian because of personal choice”
“Never wanted to try non veg?”
“if chicken started growing on trees, maybe”
And before you know it, you’ve branched into Buddhism and law of the jungle and the argument about “plants have feelings too”.
The veg VS non veg topic is progressively more layered and controversial than just a healthy debate. A veg vs non-veg debate is hardly ever free of personal bias and your answer never free of YOUR own personal taste. I’ve never come across a person who enjoys the taste of non-veg food debate in favour of veg food purely from an academic/open-minded/health/humanitarian point of view. The proven fact that a vegetarian diet is indeed healthier is conveniently ignored by the same people who’d reluctantly gobble up a glass of disgusting bitter gourd juice in the name of health or a vegetarian, for once, agree that the chicken steak is the most delectable thing they’ve ever put in their mouth (Oh No, I did try some by mistake. It isn’t! See what I did there.)
It’s quite simple, if I’m veg, veg is good and all non-vegetarians are murderers. If I’m non-veg, fuck the vegetarians and their PETA-thumping.
Personally, I was born into a vegetarian family so I grew up eating my vegetables, fruit, and the occasional hard boiled egg for the protein. Co-incidentally (or maybe resultantly) I was also born an animal lover. My mother would see no end of me bringing abandoned/sick pups/kittens/even piglets into the house to feed and nurse them back to life while staying up all night to constantly check for improvement. I think it was a part of having been born into a house with dogs which, over time, kind of sensitises you to animals.
At some point realisation stuck that I cared about animals, almost too emotionally and less practically and this care transcended into research and a PETA membership followed & subsequently documentation on the likes of ‘know where your meat came from’. But nothing prepared me for the gory, morbid pictures of decapitated cows lying in a pool of blood, videos of chickens being chopped off in factories in an assembly-line, sharks being whacked in the tummy alive to extract a plateful of roe or how the elite would call it, caviar. My insides would squirm even watching a full-bodied but headless turkey on a dinner table in a sitcom in a thanksgiving episode! I was sure that I couldn’t, even if I could, eat a piece of flesh in my life. It was a dead animal who had a face and feelings. Give me one good reason to be a non-vegetarian while I could give you a 100 to not be.
As the years grew by, I was exposed to different cultures, and thanks to a lot of travelling, a whole universe of exotic meat delicacies of the world. However if there was one thing I was least adventurous about for a rather ‘try-everything-once’ person, it was trying out non-veg. So yeah I’d frantically and painstakingly hunt (Pun unintended) for a ‘veg burger’ in a country known for its killer steaks and fantastic pork-chops. It was inconvenient, I can’t share meals with most of my friends most of the times, but no, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything honestly. It was simply the case of not missing anything you’ve never had.
And fortunately India is a vegetarian-country. I see your Hyderabadi Mutton Biryani, I raise my North Indian Rajma Chawal!
I used to find those “Looking for a homely, brahmin, vegetarian’ classifieds extremely ridiculous and in bad taste, till I realised that for all that, they actually made sense. The fact that you could bond over food is no revelation. So it’s natural that people who can enjoy a meal together (and share it) would tend to enjoy their company a taaad more?
That said, part of growing up is appreciating that people have a right to their food choices, just like you do yours, taste buds may trump over conscientiousness and animals/birds/other less-advanced species of life would continue to be subjugated by us, the human race because we have a superior brain and the ability to use it to our advantage. I have stepped back from preaching people to ‘go vegetarian’ to simply resigning myself to take solace in a classic non-vegetarian argument “that humans are at the top of the food chain and who are we to disturb it?” That 200 or 2000 people being or turning vegetarian is not going to reduce the suffering of the million other animals that still will live a painful life and die a painful death to please platters across the world. And that being a vegetarian is not the complete solution to end animal cruelty but rather stop doing anything that harms an animal in the process. (Including wearing a silk tie, or enjoying mosquitoes for company by not annihilating them with a mortein)
What I don’t buy is when non vegetarians retort with a “If you think killing animals is cruel, why is it okay to kill plants for food”. If the scale to measure ‘animals and plants’ suffering is the same, why’s it different for humans? Why is it an ‘animals vs plants’ argument, and not an ‘animals vs humans’. My point is if it’s the justification to killing animals for food is killing plants for food, then why can’t human beings kill other human beings and be exempted from the sin on the rationale that even animals are killed every single day?
How say, hypothetically speaking, that a contract killer who makes a living off killing (heh), any worse off than a person who kills a cow for a living? That cow has a family to feed too! Aint we supposed to measure all life forms on the same scale going by the ‘plants=animals’ analogy?
The fact is we are people of convenience. We can kill for food, hunt for sport, skin for leather, and torture for transport, but the moment a cruelty of a much lesser degree is inflicted on a human being, we are sinners. Our hypocritical stand is our basis of our humanitarian movements.
By all means, enjoy that Tandoori chicken or the vegan sushi. I don’t judge people for their eating habits. (well except, when you make us vegetarians split the dinner bill equally. That’s just plain mean) But as PETA would say it, know what you’re eating, make informed choices, and argue against a vegetarian, knowing that they are the ones who’ve made a sacrifice, of their palate, of their eating options, just to allow for some compassion into their lives, however indirectly. If you are a vegetarian on ethical grounds, make sure that the ethicalness pervades all forms of life and not just animals. Hitting your wife/children/husband( Go girl!) or wronging a person in any other way whilst maintaining a ‘strict vegetarian diet’ is barely any karma in my book.
Eat well. Judge even better.