Why you should still be vegetarian | A contrarian's contrarian

If you picked up this week’s issue, you’d find this contrarian piece by Lauren Viera tucked into the back of the Features section. The argument is, essentially, that vegetarianism is no longer necessary, because a lot of fancy restaurants serve meat from locally raised animals, and Coldplay sang about it. Let’s put aside the hilarious notion that, in a magazine with something called hanger steak on the cover, the contrarian piece is about how vegetarianism isn’t cool. And the fact that any American who proclaims anti-vegetarianism a contrarian position trails the FOX-y reek of, say, complaining that there’s a War on Christmas. I’m willing to put these aside because I know that it’s almost impossible to advocate for vegetarianism without becoming a public scold. So, see how generous I’m being? Remember that as I become a jerk later on.

Look, good for chefs that they’ve learned the buzzwords that assuage middle-class and foodie guilt. And a thousand huzzahs for the disposable-income disposers who wish to eat in “any good restaurant” that proclaims its veal “humane” (chuckle, chuckle) and name-drops a nearby farm. But animals are still being killed, right? I mean, it’s unclear to me how a cow is treated more humanely because its carcass is shipped a shorter distance, but that seems less the point. And it's worth noting that the image the chefs and all the food-industry MBAs want us to have in mind when they say “humane” or “sustainable” doesn’t exist. It’s not as though, on the day a cow is converted to food, the collar-county farmer walks out to the barn, knife in hand and tear in eye, and Bessie offers her neck, saying, “It’s okay, Jim. It’s time.”

The truth is that even if a cow is allowed to stretch her legs a little more often at a local farm, the majority of slaughtering still takes place at those death emporia that first convinced you to reach for the tofu. I get that it’s certainly good news for members of a particular class who get excited about the idea of a celebrity chef, and who had begun to question why they weren’t eating meat. But the argument here is less that it’s okay to eat meat now (after all, animals are still being killed, right?), and more that marketing has won. So a lot of menus change their language and “Paul Kahan has the cojones to make Quality the middle name of his new butcher shop,” and now we’re all supposed to change our minds?

The truth is that most vegetarians start eating meat due to attrition. It’s hard work dodging meat on menus, and if your significant other or close friends happen to want meat on their plate, it can be difficult to deny it. You get sick of ordering the beluga lentil dish, and that pork chop smells really good. I get that. But then just say that. Our moral decisions are constantly formed and revised by our family, circumstances and surroundings, and there’s nothing wrong with making that personal decision. Using the cover of restaurant marketing materials to justify yourself is unnecessary, and using it to argue for fewer vegetarians is beyond specious, considering there are many other larger, deeper and varied reasons for being vegetarian (e.g. animals are still being killed, you’re concerned about how taxing the raising of cattle is on the land, or you’re Hindu). So really, the argument here is that if you were never that concerned about turning animals into meat, you just got freaked out by a movie when you were 16, it’s now okay to stop freaking out because a Chipotle commercial made it all better.

Bull quality shit.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)