How does being a Pagan affect your view on Vegetarians?
Does your love and respect for nature and living things lead you to stay away from meat? Or is it more based on the nature of the food processing that bolsters your distaste for meat?
If you are of the carnivorous branch of humans, does your Pagan view on life make you feel guilty at all? Does it affect the choices you make when you shop for meat in the store?
Fair warning and full disclosure: I’m a vegetarian.
Now, it has nothing to do with my spiritual beliefs. Which, at least from online observation of pagan groups, seems to be a huge shock to most people I meet. I seem to encounter those who are in an uproar about my lack of spiritual/religious concern for the plight of animals even as I abstain from consuming their flesh.
In fact, I’m very well aware of the fact that any pagan ancestors I have would have been eating quite a lot of meat. Doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I’d have probably been the strange one. And honestly, humans are built to consume some meat, so it’s not like it goes against nature. I’m not one of those (I’ll use the stereotype) “tree-hugging” pagans. I don’t like to go surround myself with nature. I like my modern amenities – especially indoor plumbing! – far too much to go and enjoy “roughing it” out in the wilderness. Nature is pretty, I enjoy it, however, I’m not going to ever be someone who goes off the grid to avoid causing any environmental harm. Humans cause some harm, I am for minimizing my effect upon this planet, but I know I can’t sum it out at zero.
I’m a vegetarian for 1 major reason. I’ve been one for so long, I honestly don’t remember what meat tastes like. I still hate the smell of meat. Truth be told, the smell of holiday turkey, or (more frequently) my family’s summer backyard barbecue hamburgers/brats makes me ill. I have to leave the kitchen during big family events, because the smell of meat cooking makes me physically nauseous. But – I’m a vegetarian for the main reason that I absolutely hated the taste of meat. I despised having to eat it as a kid, because I thought it disgusting. I didn’t know what the meat industry was like back then (I was like 11 or 12), and I doubt I would have cared. After all, if I didn’t see it, it didn’t bother me a whole lot as a kid. Our meat industry has a lot to answer towards, but I’m aware that as long as demand exists, it will continue to exist. I do wish and hope that it will be cleaned up and made more humane, but I’m not holding my breath. And I’m also well aware that if the whole planet went vegetarian or vegan we would have a whole host of other problems. So neither is a perfect solution. But I chose to quit eating meat because I hated the taste. It wasn’t fun or pleasant to eat, so why bother?
And, I’ve learned since, I’m far healthier as a vegetarian than I was as a meat-eater. That’s me personally. I know not everyone can be vegetarian. I don’t care what another person eats, pagan or not, as long as they don’t force it upon me. I’m the only vegetarian in my whole group of friends. They think I’m crazy, but they leave me alone. I don’t bother them about their hamburgers, steak or chicken, they don’t bother me about my salads, soy-products and tofu. I’m healthier than I used to be, and since I never enjoyed meat, I see no reason to eat it. I’m also slightly lactose-intolerant, as I’ve begun to learn in the last 10 months, which leads to a few more challenges. I’ve learned how to diversify my diet and ensure I get the protein and other essentials that I need without meat. That’s fine for me. Others don’t want to, can’t, or just refuse to be vegetarian. I see nothing wrong with that.
I love my pets as much as everyone else. I love animals too. I’m particularly fond of anything feline or canine. Still, humans by nature eat animals. Other animals eat other animals. So why the uproar over pagans doing what comes perfectly naturally to humans? In a historical context, I’d be willing to wager that vegetarians like me are an oddity, so there’s no reason to shame meat-eaters in their choices. There’s a difference between loving your dog Fido or cat Meowser, and choosing to eat a steak or chicken breast for dinner. I do not really understand the militant vegetarianism or veganism that shames people for eating meat. And the tripe about “you don’t love animals if you eat meat” is false, asinine and abhorrent. Our ancestors for thousands of years had pets, dogs or cats, that helped them hunt, and they loved these animals no less than a modern-day vegetarian or vegan does.
Basically – I’m of the opinion that each person makes their own determination. If you are a person who is comfortable, healthy and fine eating meat – then that’s your business. I’m happy, healthy and comfortable not touching any of that stuff. It’s a personal preference and decision that is no one else’s business. If you love animals and have pets, but also eat meat, that’s also fine. Neither vegetarians or meat-eaters are any better. It’s a personal decision that is of no concern to anyone but the person making said decision. I’m no better a pagan for not eating meat, and neither is my meat-eating friend a better person for doing “what [our] people have been doing for thousands of years”. It’s personal preference. And I think that your eating habits are the last concern of which I would express interest in a pagan forum or discussion.∗