I'm Converting - Becoming a Vegetarian... (?)

Several years ago I was sitting in a Shari's restaurant at midnight with my actor-friend Chris Murray. He was laying a guilt trip on me for eating meat:

"Walker, there are only two reasons people eat meat: ignorance, or cruelty. Which reason is yours?"

Chris was eating a piece of pie and I was cutting up my country-fried steak and eggs. I answered, "Ummm... deliciousness?"

"Deliciousness isn't an option, you dick," he said. "I've already told you all about the cruelty animals endure in factory farms. So you're not ignorant. You're cruel. Cruelty is your answer."

I held firm to my deliciousness position that night. Fast-forward to the present, and Chris Murray has entirely rejected his vegetarianism. Maybe he got too much into character playing "Hater Jesus" in a recent Everclear music video, but apparently "cruelty" or "deliciousness" won out for Chris (Chris, I still love you bro!).

On the other hand, I had an existential crisis of sorts this week. I'm not sure what it was that specifically triggered my conviction, but sometimes it takes thinking about issues from a slightly different angle to truly change one's mind. For me, I was visualizing the pain and torture committed against cows, chickens and pigs by the hundreds of thousands. It occured to me that a sort of moral vacuum of suffering must exist in our universe (I know, maybe this sounds a little dramatic... but maybe it is dramatic). Like a black hole, a vacuum must be filled or continue caving in on itself.

Our actions against creation itself cannot continue unanswered. Existence itself cannot continue at an unhindered pace while such suffering continues unabated.

Now, I'm not someone who wants to put animal lives over human lives. I realize that humans suffer and die from horrific causes, every second of the day. My conviction over atrocities against animals doesn't detract from outrage over human rights violations. If anything, these convictions compliment one another and derive from the same spirit of compassion and righteous outrage at what Len Sweet and Brian McLaren call "The Suicide Machine."

JesusVeg.com says:

Jesus' message is one of love and compassion, yet there is nothing loving or compassionate about factory farms and slaughterhouses, where billions of animals live miserable lives and die violent, bloody deaths. Jesus mandates kindness, mercy, compassion, and love for all God's creation. He would be appalled by the degree of suffering we inflict on animals to indulge our acquired taste for their flesh.Christians have a choice. When we sit down to eat, we can add to the level of violence, misery, and death in the world, or we can respect His creation with a vegetarian diet.

The Christian Vegetarian Association website reads:

The CVA respectfully addresses humans' relationship with animals from a comprehensive biblical perspective. We attempt therefore to actively participate in the "reconciliation of Creation" that promises to result in the "Peaceable Kingdom" foreshadowed by Scripture.

I'm not exactly sure how these rumblings in my spirit are going to turn out. Frankly, at this point I'm not-so-much bothered by the killing of animals as I am by the horrific and unconscionable treatment of them for our perverse, obese, gluttonous mass-consumption.

I'll be reading more and praying more about this. But the more I read, the more convicted I am. If you'd like to join me, please check out these websites too...


wilsonian said...

I went veg about 6 months ago, and there is no turning back. In order to eat meat I pretty much had to convince myself that it was born fully formed on a slab of styrofoam and covered by saran. Then I started really thinking about what I was doing... what we are doing... to creation, and knew I had to stop. I'd already switched to fair-trade coffee and chocolate, so I was already headed down a path of change.

Truth is most of the world eats little to no meat. When you eat a vegetarian diet you have the opportunity to eat in solidarity with a vast number of people around the world.

I had no idea there were Christian resources out there... so thanks for the links. And I wish you well with this, whatever way you go. It's only good to think about/be intentional in all areas of our life.

Peter said...

Wilsonian, great to see your username again!

This is a beautiful statement:
"you have the opportunity to eat in solidarity with a vast number of people around the world."


Pickypants said...

I was so wise.

I have also succumbed to the "deliciousness" argument.

So much for my entitled feeling of superiority.

David Henson said...

Vegetarianism has never been a conviction of mine. It does make me a bit uncomfortable if people use religion to enforce -- rather than justify -- a position as *the* position of God. I'm the same with pacifism and nonviolence positions, particularly when so much of the bible operates on war and shows numerous examples of carnivorous behavior.

I think you are right though when you speak about our mass consumption of meat and the damage that causes. I am in awe of people who so daringly change their lives to cut out meat entirely. I prefer to reduce my intake, and dream of one day raising my own chickens for eggs and food.

I wish you the best.

Anonymous said...

It's been so intersting for me. I had veggie friends who would be grossed out by meat, and I never was...And, if someone went out hunting and used the food they shot, I feel like that's an honest thing to do. Its not the eating of meat that challenges me, but the way our society, and others, has chosen to PRODUCE the meat that bothers me. That part, and the un-naturalness of it, is what is "wrong" for me.

And, also, if you ever want to be REALLY grossed out, check out a mass-producing dairy farm. Its just not right, man. I do still drink milk, but I sure wish I could find a smaller dairy to buy from.


marks.els said...

Eat "free range" and continue on with your "deliciousness" life style. I know I know you we all hate easy answers.

I'm an on again off again vegetarian. One meal I am, the next I'm not. Maybe I'm just not picky. . .

Peter said...

I'm completely comfortable witn tne "free range" path. Would make the world a much better place.

David - I too am tired of "holier-than-thou" guilt tripping about all sorts of stuff. Including eating meat and going to war. I intend to be non-militant about it (since militarism - even ideological - seems to be the function of Empire).

Just trying to stumble through some of this stuff publicly to see if any of my experiences resonate or "stick."

Becca, I'm with you. The KILLING doesn't bug me all that much. My friend Sterling has given me some really impressive, "eco-conscious" justifications for hunting. And meat doesn't bug me - I love steak. Just can't handle the horror behind the mass-producing meat industry.

I'm starting as a vego, I may revert to a "free range," "humane meat" eater. Dunno yet...

Existential Punk said...

We go through periods where we eat only vegetarian. Katryna refuses to eat lamb because of the way they are treated. We try and eat free-range and hormone-free chicken and meat.

Moby is a HUGE vegan and supporter of PETA.

Do you think you will eventually make the leap to veganism?

i find that difficult as i enjoy my leather shoes and bags! Not saying i am totally adverse to it though.


P.S. Do you have someething set up so you can follow conversations on blogs you follow so you do not have to continually check back? i sometimes post comments on blogs i happen upon and forget where they are as i do not follow them regularly. It'd be nice to follow the conversations, sometimes! :)

camsview said...

What's a "country-friend" chicken? I'm really sure you shouldn't be eating anything that you call, friend :)

On another note...several of the tastiest things I have ever eaten were completely vegan.

Anonymous said...

If a fattened calf was good for Abraham, I pray its good enough for me. Having a degree in Animal Science and having worked in the animal industry all my life, I can assure you that rendering an animal unconcious prior to slaughter, is certainly more humane than how animals were slaughtered in the OT and NT...or even 50 years ago for that matter.

Peter said...

Oops, Cam, you got it - country FRIED steak. I don't tend toward cannibalism.

Anonymous, I agree. I don't have a problem with the killing. I just don't like the mechanized industry we have now - not humane.

I hope the "free range" and "humane meat" movements continue to grow in the US.

Peter said...

Oh, and I was going to say - many of the animals are NOT unconscious when killed (endless undercover video footage demonstrates this) and even if they were, it's the living conditions I have a real problem with. Horrifying. Cows and pigs are incredibly emotional animals, and people would be in jail for treating dogs and cats the way we treat livestock.

wilsonian said...

Great discussion here. Reading EP's comment about shoes was interesting for me, as I've just recently started to buy (or try to buy) shoes that are vegan and fair trade. LOL! Yea. It's pretty easy to find one or the other. I finally got some running shoes (I was right through the soles of the ones I had). I hate the thought of replacing my winter boots.

ps. I've always been around, but rarely have anything intelligent to contribute to the conversation :)

Anonymous said...

I didnt realize you had an advanced degree in animal emotions...Puts my Animal Science degree and 20 plus years of raising cattle and swine to shame....of course, the cattle I raised were grazing on 60,000 acres of land...I guess thats like a "factory"..if you realllly stretch your imagination.

Of course, thats good grazing land...one cow/calf pair to 5 acres or so....out west its even more cramped...they run a cow/calf pair to 100 or more acres...such tight conditions...its horrible I tell you.

Peter said...

Anonymous, you clearly don't read the posts themselves, but rather pick out a few choice words to vehemently react to. I think it's lovely you provide a humane source of meat. I have no quarrel with you, unless you think that because YOU are moral, all ranchers are moral. That's like saying if you're a kind human, then all humans are kind.

Anonymous said...

"I have no quarrel with you, unless you think that because YOU are moral, all ranchers are moral. That's like saying if you're a kind human, then all humans are kind."

Your the one guilty of making HUGE assumptions...youre going to give up meat becasue some people in the undustry are lacking morals....theres a few bad teachers who have abused chldren (way more egregious then hurting cattle)in the school system...down with education....a few pastors/priests who have hurt kids too...down with the church....theres porn site on the internet....down with the internet. PETA has been found guilty of killing puppies in VA...down with ALL those groups....getting the drift yet?

Peter said...

No Anonymous, because I'm not asking you to give up meat. Only giving a personal testimony. That's all I can offer.

Anonymous said...

No Peter...you fail to see the lack of logic involved with your own testimony (how is this a testimony?)....how ignorant would I be to give up on the internet because of a few immoral sites...on education because of a few pedophiles...if you said I am doing it for my health...hey cool..but your doing becasue of a few bad cases of immorality (cruelty) to animals.

But unfortunatley your lack of humility wont allow you to see (or actually do some homework) through your own ignorance of the process it takes for people like me to put food on your table, clothes on your back and feet, medicine in your cabinet, asphalt on your roads and ink in the cartridge....all of which are but a few products and by products of cattle. Have fun with that tofu.

L.L. Barkat said...

Welcome to High Calling Blogs! :)

I've been veg for about 10 years. I started for health reasons and only later developed even a smidge of compassion for the whole animals/pain/cruelty thing. I admire that you've written about this (I did an article this past year at Today's Christian Woman and some of the reactions were balanced, some amazingly unfriendly).

I look forward to hearing more about your journey. (And feel free to poke around at my Green Inventions site for resources, etc. It's always fun to chat about these things! :)

Peter said...

Laura, thanks so much - I'm excited to be a part of the network!

Yes, I've received my share of disapproving and even angry reactions to choosing vegetarianism. Which I understand - a lot of good folks' livelihood is dependent upon the industry. But I'm convinced there are always ethical, humane ways of doing any business.

Thanks for the visit, and I look forward to ongoing dialogue!

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