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Meat and metaphysics

Posted on May 6th, 2011, by

French restaurantMy family is taunting me from Paris. The last couple nights I’ve come home to find photos of delicious French cuisine — none of it vegetarian — in my inbox.

My mother and sister are photographing these lovely bistro dinners just to mess with me while they’re on vacation. (*sigh*) Yes, they know I’ve gone vegetarian for four weeks; it’s just too good a chance to tease me for them to pass up.

So that’s how it’s gonna be, huh mom? You really wanna go there, sis’? Well, prepare for a veggie photographic counter-attack…

Veggie dish

Take that! Uh… sprouts on, something… over a bed of quinoa.

Okay, that was a bit underwhelming as far as counter-attacks go. I can imagine them showing it to their current waiter and them all having a good laugh.

“Ha ha! But why, madame, does your son — he eat this… uh, ‘food’?”

Well, my bow tie wearing friend, let me answer your question with a question of my own: “Why is France less than 2% vegetarian and India 40% vegetarian?”

I submit to you, monsieur, that the answer is karma. (Something you should probably pay attention to while you laugh.) The idea of potentially being reincarnated as something destined for the dinner table gives one a strong karmic incentive to eat vegetarian out of pure metaphysical self-preservation.

Okay, I’m being facetious. Even a western atheist like me can appreciate that Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists are focused on compassion and enlightenment — not staying off the dinner table. But a vegetarian diet is strongly encouraged through many of India’s religious traditions and it seems to show in the numbers.

Strange how in western faiths the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” doesn’t extend to animals.

But whether we’re talking karma and reincarnation or an eternal afterlife spent in Heaven or Hell, there’re always consequences for how we live our lives. It basically comes down to us getting what we deserve.

Of course, there’re all kinds of “getting what you deserve” — be it from a deity, our communities or the universe at large. There’s the punitive “eye for an eye” Old Testament style. There’s the karmic-reincarnation style. And then there’s my personal favourite, the Wiccan Rule of Three. I like this one because you get what you deserve (good or bad) handed back to you three-fold. It’s pretty hardcore.

You also have to give the Wiccans credit for being very pro-Earth. I think when it comes to eating meat the “getting what we deserve” consequences are going to be a lot closer to the Rule of Three than all the others. As a planet-fearing environmentalist, my general rule is, “Don’t mess with nature, or it will Mess. You. Up.”

For example, if you saw someone poking a 600-pound sleeping tiger with a pointy stick would you expect the tiger to wake up and poke them with a single claw? No, that poor individual is about to experience something like the rule of 1,547.

Now imagine the tiger is the planet Earth and the person is the human race, and the pointy stick is us eating lots and lots of meat (along with a few other unsustainable habits).

Sadly, there’s less hyperbole in that not-so-subtle metaphor than most of us would think. Westerners typically adopt vegetarian diets for health reasons or animal rights — and North America rates haven’t moved much in the last fifteen years. (The United States is at 3% and Canada 4%.)

I think the only way Western countries will reach Indian levels of vegetarianism is if the environmental argument begins to takes hold. If more people understood how huge the global impact of meat production was, and how easy it is to go vegetarian, we might see some much needed growth rates of vegetarianism.

Surely, monsieur, a country so sensible it adopted the metric system over two hundred years ago can get behind an idea that makes this much sense, right?

We’re counting on you guys to break the meat trend in a big way, because if any country on earth can bring vegetarian cuisine to its most delicious and decadent potential, it’s gotta be France! We’re not even asking you to skimp on the butter — for now :-)

Some reference links

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_vegetarianism
http://www.euroveg.eu/lang/en/info/howmany.php
http://www.imaner.net/panel/statistics.htm#reveal
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetarianism_by_country
http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/3_foodconsumption/en/index4.html
http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/cats/international_statistics.html
http://jn.nutrition.org/content/133/11/4048S.full
http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=706957
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/weekinreview/27bittman.html

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Brad PearsonBrad Pearson
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Brad loves his bacon crispy and his steak smothered with sautéed mushrooms — but seems to keep dating vegetarians. He’s finally taking it as a sign and giving this whole meat-free thing a whirl for four weeks. He is afraid, very afraid, but knows a smaller “foodprint” is good for the planet.

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