Why I’m a Failed Vegetarian
I am a failed vegetarian. This is probably because I started out as a failed vegetarian, but the jury is still out on the primary reason for it. And yet, the evidence against me is substantial.
To begin with, I didn't become a vegetarian for any moral or dietary reasons. I became one because I wanted to challenge myself and see whether or not I could actually stick with something diet-related for a month. Of course, during that month, I watched the videos and read the books and became horrified by both the treatment of animals and the impact it has on one's health and ended up sticking to it.
This is where I continued to fail. I'm still a vegetarian, but I'm not overly preachy about it. My husband is a meat-eater and I still, on occasion, cook him meaty meals. If someone else is cooking for me and uses chicken broth, I don't snub my nose at the meal they made for me because I value my relationships more than my vegetarianism and don't want to be rude. To be truthful, the only time I came across this conundrum was when the person cooking the meal didn't know I was a vegetarian, so I certainly can't fault them for the meal they cooked.
I also don't force people to watch videos about animal cruelty, I don't tell them that their consumption of red meat may cause heart disease (or cancer), and I don't hand out pamphlets or preach vegetarianism to strangers. I applaud those who do because I think vegetarianism is a good choice, but I also recognize that it's not the only choice and I respect other people's right to make decisions regarding their own lives and health.
And here’s the kicker. Sometimes I take a bit of my husband’s steak. While I’ve been able to abstain from eating a full, meaty meal on my own, I find that one bite completely irresistible. For some reason, I can handle giving up chicken and ham and bacon, but when it comes to a good peppercorn steak, I find myself salivating. Yes, I know the meat industry is awful. And yes, I know that I’m sacrificing my own values for that one bite but I can’t help myself.
There are some that would say that this means I'm not a "real" or "proud" vegetarian, but I would disagree. For me, not eating meat is a choice that I make every day, but my relationships are more important and I am not going to squabble about it. I won't force my friends to give up meat for my sake, just as they won't force me to eat meat for their sake. I made this change four years into my marriage and certainly can't blame my husband for having a hard time adjusting to my new dietary standards when I was addicted to beef jerky and fried bologna up until the change (and I oftentimes miss it). Being a vegetarian makes me feel better, both emotionally and physically. My body thanks me for the change, but I have friends who swear that red meat saved them from unpleasant bodily side effects and I don’t fault them for it.
The point is, vegetarianism a choice and my choice doesn't need to be anyone else's. So long as people are educated about what they are doing and understand the consequences of their actions, regardless of what decision they make (including non-food related choices), I can get onboard with it. I might not like it but it's not my decision to make and this passive approach has left me in an awkward position. To my meat eating friends, I'm a preachy vegetarian for bringing up the subject of health or animal cruelty, but to (some) other vegetarians I'm not doing enough and have failed. There are some who think that my values aren’t that strong because I place my personal relationships above this particular value and there are those who think I’m sacrificing friendships by not participating in things like pig roasts. Then there are those who begrudge me my one bite of steak or who chastise me for not doing enough because, well, I’m not full vegan. I know that there are plenty of people who don’t fall into any of these camps but the fact that any backlash exists leaves me feeling like a failure. No matter which way I slice it, I’m disappointing someone but at least that someone isn’t me.
Ultimately, I'm okay with this. If keeping my choices personal and not forcing others to follow suit makes me a failure, then it's an adjective I will gladly embrace.