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For some time now I've said that I'm not a vegetarian, but could easily become one if circumstances required it. After all, I don't usually eat a whole lot of meat anyway, and will often choose food that caters to vegetarians (veggie burgers, soy-based meat substitutes, etc.) simply because I happen to really like it. I guess my taste for the synthetic extends to my food preferences as well! ;-)

However, I'd never actually tested my claim to see if I really could go meatless. For reasons which I'll get into below, I decided it was high time to test the hypothesis by not eating any meat for one week (including fish, but not including eggs or dairy products) and seeing how much of an impact it had on my day to day life.

That was over two weeks ago, and it's been a snap! I'd expected to run into some unanticipated problems, but so far none have materialized. It has certainly helped that femetal is planning on switching to a "reduced cruelty" diet starting January 1st and has been preparing for the transition by experimenting with various meat substitutes. I started this with the rough idea of reducing my meat consumption by anywhere from 50-90%. I now think that even 90% might be lowballing.

I'm still not planning on going completely vegetarian, but as a result of this faux flesh foray I've decided to adopt a flexitarian diet.

From Wikipedia:
"Flexitarianism is a semi-vegetarian diet involving the practice of eating mainly vegetarian food, but making occasional exceptions for social, pragmatic, cultural, or nutritional reasons."

There are only a couple of foods containing meat that I'm unwilling to give up (spring rolls from Phở Quyên and a variety of sushi/sashimi), but I'm also unwilling to put my friends/family in a position where they feel pressured to cater to me, either in preparing food or simply choosing where to go to eat. So I'm still down for holiday dinners and other special occasions, and if the group all wants to go to Doublemeat Palace then so be it.

Okay, so why? Well, there are a few reasons. Depending on what one eats and where one shops, it could prove to be a bit cheaper. It's also likely to be more healthy, notwithstanding the enormous quantity of cookies and other holiday treats I've been putting away lately. There are arguments (which I haven't yet thoroughly reserched) supporting the claim that meat consumption fuels an industry which has a disproportionate effect on the environment. Given that my body is designed to be omnivorous it also seems more energy efficient to reduce the number of steps between photosynthesis and my belly. Finally there's the ethical motivation. Here's my version:

I'm a utilitarian, and as such seek to maximize benefit and minimize suffering, whether the agents in question are human, animal, or AI. I don't consider an animal's welfare to be on par with a human's, but it must still be taken into account, and I don't find that the benefit I get out of eating an animal (assuming alternate nutrition sources are available) balances out the harm in slaughtering it. Of course, YMMV. I'm merely explaining my own thought process here, not lecturing anyone. :-)

At a Q&A sponsored by the Center for Inquiry last year, ethicist and philosopher Peter Singer posed the following question to Richard Dawkins (I'm paraphrasing): Given that we both subscribe to the idea of evolution by natural selection, and by extension that humans do not intrinsically occupy a pre-ordained special place in the universe, but rather are distantly related to all of the other species on Earth, how do you justify continuing to eat animals?

Dawkins' response was to concede the point- that given the variety of other food sources available to him there was really no need for him to eat meat. He continues to do so basically out of social convention and lack of discipline, but stated that he could see a time when vegetarianism becomes the norm.

In The God Delusion, Dawkins has a chapter entitled "The Changing Moral Zeitgeist". The basic idea is that what's considered moral and ethical in one time may be abhorrent in another, and that despite setbacks here and there on average the general trend is toward greater regard for life, equality, and the well being of individuals. The Bible endorses slavery. Were he alive today and still holding the same attitudes he did in his day, Abraham Lincoln would likely be considered on overt racist. H.G. Wells was a progressive in his time, but held attitudes which are nothing short of horrific when read in a modern context.

That being the case, and with an eye toward radical longevity, I'd like to try to anticipate where the zeitgeist is headed long term and move myself in that direction as best I can. Part of that involves advocating things like genetic engineering and equal (or greater?) rights for sentient AI's, and part of it involves reducing (and perhaps down the road eliminating) my meat consumption.

As an aside, I say "reduce" my meat consumption rather than "eliminate" as a concession to my own weaknesses. I'd rather be a flexitarian for the rest of my life than a complete vegetarian for a few months and then quit because I felt like I was missing out.

Bon Appétit!


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 25th, 2008 11:33 am (UTC)
Good for you. Good luck in your new culinary endeavor. I personally do not eat much red meat. I choose a veggie burger over a hamburger all the time. However poultry is not something I will pass up.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 25th, 2008 04:17 pm (UTC)
Or it could go the other way like Adams predicted and we could end up with cows that gleefully offer themselves to us & then humanely slaughter themselves!

And I couldn't live without bacon.

Felicitations on your natal celebration BTW.
Dec. 26th, 2008 06:20 am (UTC)
Appropriately enough, I have a book called "The Pig Who Wants To Be Eaten" that poses interesting philosophical and ethical questions. As the title implies, one of the scenarios is quite similar to Adams' cows at the Restaurant At The End Of The Universe. Is an agent which is explicitly designed to have self-destructive desires truly able to give reasoned consent? What, if any, moral burden does this place upon the restaurant patron? This is definitely a question to discuss over dinner!

And I couldn't live without bacon.
We have some meatless bacon. I believe that the plan is to experiment with it for breakfast in the morning. Should be... interesting...
Dec. 25th, 2008 10:56 pm (UTC)
I am glad you are keeping sushi.

Also, will I be seeing you both tonight at the party?
Dec. 26th, 2008 06:14 am (UTC)
Hopefully late notification is better than none at all, but in case it isn't already obvious we won't be able to make it to the party. We were occupied all day, and just now got home.

I hope it was great! Let us know when you'd like to take advantage of the "sushi loophole", `k? *HUGS* and Merry Stolen Pagan Holiday!
Dec. 26th, 2008 01:31 am (UTC)
I am pretty much in agreement with you. I've been doing the Flexitarian thing for a while now, though I probably still do eat to much avian flesh...
Dec. 26th, 2008 06:23 am (UTC)
Yeah, I don't know what I'll miss more - chicken/turkey or fish. So far I haven't felt any particular meat cravings at all, but we'll see how things go long term.
Dec. 26th, 2008 04:18 pm (UTC)
Hi! I'm a friend of Compass-Rose's, and I ran across this post while cruising her friends list (which I do occasionally). May I offer you a few words of warning, one semi-vegitarian to another?
1. Take care in how much soy-based meat substitute you eat. The plant estrogens in them can have unwanted effects in men. Try the grain-based burgers or Qworn "chicken" cutlets (as well as good old fashioned beans & rice dishes) to make sure you're getting protein without overdoing the soy.
2. Don't forget your Flintstones. The veggie diet is often lacking in a few B vitamins that are found mostly in red meat. Vitamin supplements can help you overcome that shortfall.
And thanks for giving me a new word for what I am... I'll happily take the moniker of "flexitarian" over the vague of "sort of almost vegitarian" label I offer now.
Good luck!
Jan. 9th, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
a couple of informative articles
Hi there,

Flexitarian is a much-talked about word in the nutrition community. I found a couple of short articles that I thought were enlightening. You probably already knew this stuff, but it's still interesting.


If you go to www.powerofmeat.com and click on the "Flexitarian" link at left there's a nice article that agrees with what you stated. Nice to know you're not alone, eh?

Make sure you get enough zinc and B12. Soybeans do have all of the essential amino acids, but like another in your comments said, plant estrogens can be detrimental to a man, and many soy-based products have high levels of these hormones (and it's not on the label!). Fresh edamame is a great way to get your soy and all the essential aminos...I saw huge bags of fresh frozen edamame at Sam's a couple of months ago, might check and see if they still carry it, or try Costco. Steam and sprinkle sea salt for extra minerals. :-)

Anyway, I think that finding a diet that you agree with is positive for mental/emotional health. Doing something you love and are excited about lifts the spirits. My caution to you is to also make sure that a diet without meat actually agrees with you. Some people do very well on vegetarian diets. Others do not. It usually has much to do with not eating a well-diversified vegetarian diet...I knew a vegetarian who thought they were doing well because they only ate organic blue-corn chips with fresh salsa and/or guacamole, peanut butter sandwiches, and took multivitamins. Literally that was their entire diet menu. She wondered why she was tired and sick all the time. I think you have more than enough presence of mind to avoid situations like that and will approach flexitarianism with proper nutrition in mind. :-)

Oh, and by the way, I am starting my backyard garden this growing season...which means fresh as-close-to-organic-as-I-possibly-can produce. I am planning a salsa garden with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapenos and other peppers; there is a variety of tomatoes bred especially for salsa which are delicious. Also a few varieties of corn (+ an ornamental), vine and cherry tomatoes, sunflowers, pole beans, snow peas, bush beans, cucumbers, soybeans (if I can find them), lettuces, squash, zucchini, habeneros, bell peppers and sweet peppers, a few herbs like lavender, lemon basil, thai basil, rosemary, and possibly a couple of fruit trees, a columnar apple tree and a dwarf cherry tree. I'm thinking of some small pumpkins (Lumina are white-shelled pumpkins with bright orange flesh inside!), gourds and cantaloupes/muskmelons too. Wouldn't mind an avocado tree either, but not sure where I'll put it. It's going to be a busy growing season! We'll see how much of that I actually get planted. When I get an abundant harvest of something (which I know will be more than I can use) I will let you know. :-)

Good luck with the flexitarian nutrition! Keep reading from as many sources as you can...there's a lot of conflicting information out there. I think in the end you just have to sort it out for yourself as to what makes you feel good and healthy!
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )