At a social gathering, when someone is about to serve you a leg of lamb and you really can’t fathom the idea of eating such a lovely little animal, an acceptable excuse can be, “I forgot to tell you. I’m a vegetarian.” In reality perhaps you only eat poultry, or fish or animals that aren’t cute. But if you told your host that, you might not be invited again.
When I was in Switzerland with my husband, his two Uncles took us to a small village near Bern to sample their specialty- and nothing was lost in translation- it was horse. They were very excited for us to sample the local wares. My face turned red and I pretended to study the menu, which was all in Swiss-German.
I couldn’t say I was a vegetarian, as I had devoured an entire ham hock the previous night. And I couldn’t really say I was a picky eater, or they might be offended. They asked me if I would be ordering the horse. I said that we didn’t eat horse in Canada. They asked me if I couldn’t eat horse for “sentimental reasons”, and I nodded my head. They were very understanding of my choice and helped me find something suitable, and they ordered the horse.
Since then, my reasons for not wanting to eat lamb or eggs or red meat, or horse have been for “sentimental reasons”. I tell a story of visiting a farm, or growing up on one. What they don’t know is that I grew up on a farm with emus, llamas, and peacocks and peahens: pets, essentially.
Two years later and I am a vegetarian. I’m not sure if that incident was directly related in some way. But one day back in November 2009 the idea of sinking my teeth into a nice juicy steak, became sinking my teeth into the flesh of an animal. I thought maybe it was because I was becoming more aware of the treatment of animals in factory farms, and the hormones and antibiotics injected into most North American animals. I was trying to go organic and organic meat is so much more expensive.
(Remember when organic food was just called food? You didn’t have to be scared that it was genetically modified or pumped full of chemicals. Remember when food tasted like what it’s supposed to, and not the bland GMO version).
One day I purchased a 6-pack of organic, free-range chicken thighs and thought I would be okay with it. I made a delicious meal and the smell coming from the oven made my mouth water, but when it came to actually ingesting the food, I physically couldn’t.
Why other people become vegetarians: I don’t know. Maybe because they can tout the health benefits, feel self-righteous about saving the world one lentil at a time, or relate to other people who find eating meat inhumane?
For me, it is the idea of eating an animal.