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September 2000
Vegetarian Advocate: Is Being a Vegetarian Hard?

By Jack Rosenberger


It’s a pleasant summer morning. The scene is a local pizza parlor since the counselors at my daughter Zoe’s day camp decided it would be fun if the children learned how pizza is made. Some parents were needed to help with the transportation, which is why I’m sitting in a booth with Lisa and Jill, the mothers of Lauren and Emma respectively, while the children sit nearby, eating pizza and spilling their drinks.

Like most young parents, Lisa, Jill, and I, when we’re not complaining about our spouses, are talking about our children. Whose daughter sleeps the least. Whose daughter likes to play with bugs. Whose daughter is the most bossy. At this particular moment, Lisa’s talking about how she gets Lauren to eat a good breakfast. Jill nods her head and pipes in, "Emma and I don’t eat meat."

This news surprises me, for I’d thought I knew every teacher, counselor, student, parent, and grandparent at Zoe’s camp who was a vegetarian. And Jill and Emma weren’t on that list.

"Do you cook meat for your husband?" asks Lisa, who’s a psychologist.

"No, I don’t," replies Jill. "We do eat chicken and fish." She pauses. "I couldn’t live without fish. I’d die if I couldn’t eat fish."

I tell Jill (as Lisa already knows this information) that my wife Rani, Zoe, and I are vegetarians.

"That must be hard," says Jill.

"No, it isn’t," I reply.

"That must be hard," says Jill.

Instead of repeating myself, I take a sip of coffee. Later, though, I regret being silent. I wish I’d said, "Actually, it would be harder for me if I wasn’t a vegetarian. That would be really hard."

Is Being a Vegetarian Hard?
I became a vegetarian more than 20 years ago for ethical reasons. When I realized that my eating meat caused animal suffering and killing, I knew I had to make a choice.

It’s difficult for me to imagine who I would be if I was a nonvegetarian. It’s not that I can’t imagine myself eating animal flesh, it’s that I don’t know how I would live with myself if I did. If I ate meat, I would be actively suppressing the part of me that is compassionate, alert, respectful of others, sensitive, alive. Every time I ate meat, I’d know I was lying to myself.

When Jill opined that being a vegetarian must be hard, I doubt she was thinking of spiritual matters. Rather, I suspect she was saying she likes the convenience and taste of animal flesh.

Yet, eating a vegetarian diet isn’t hard. At times it is inconvenient, but as a diet it isn’t nearly as inconvenient or restrictive, I imagine, as a raw food diet or a Kosher lifestyle.

Implicit in Jill’s statement is the notion that hard things are not worth doing. Me, I relish challenges.

Ruth Harrison Dies
How unimportant is animal welfare-slash-animal rights to the mainstream media? Ruth Harrison, the author of Animal Machines, died June 13th, and the New York Times obituary department didn’t regard her life, or death, as worthy of mention.

Of course, it’s unfair to single out the New York Times for neglecting Harrison. The Washington Post also passed Harrison over. And an on-line search of the Los Angeles Times, using the words "Ruth Harrison" and "animals," found 521 "matching" documents, such as "Girl Recovering from Rattlesnake Bite" and "David Spade Digs Shipwreck Comedy." A more detailed search, however, revealed that the LA Times, like its East Coast colleagues, failed to note Harrison’s life and death.

The publication of Harrison’s Animal Machines in 1964 forever changed the western world’s practice of animal agriculture. In fact, it’s reasonable to state that Ruth Harrison’s Animal Machines did for the animal welfare movement what Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring did for the environment movement. (Incidentally, Carson wrote the forward for Animal Machines.) Animal Machines exposed the horrors of factory farming to an unsuspecting public. In England, where Harrison’s book was first published, the Ministry of Agriculture set up a committee that reviewed factory farming. Harrison served on the committee, and its work led to the eventual outlawing of some of the most horrific farming practices. Meanwhile, Harrison, a vegetarian, founded the Farm Animal Care Trust, which worked toward improving the living conditions of farm animals.

The Times of London devoted approximately 1,000 words (and two pictures, one of which showed the inside of an overcrowded chicken warehouse) to detailing Harrison’s life and her many accomplishments.

Harrison’s obit states that she opposed "battery cages for hens, small crates for veal calves and narrow stalls or tethers for pregnant sows." The practice of veal crates, for example, is not a natural phenomena; and they weren’t invented by mother and father cows. It is humans who created, implemented, and perpetuated the practice of imprisoning baby calves in crates. Without greedy and insensitive humans, the practice of veal crates wouldn’t exist.

I was saddened when Harrison’s obituary stated, "She was charming to all and never hostile to the farming industry in general, only to the practices which she thought unjustifiable." I can’t stomach the idea of being unfailingly charming to factory farmers. I believe animal advocates should challenge, criticize, and, if possible, ostracize factory farmers—and work toward passing legislation that will outlaw cruel farming techniques. Isn’t this what the animals would want?

Farm Sanctuary Fund
Farm Sanctuary has set up a Farm Animal Defense Fund "to investigate and animal abusers." The fund will purchase investigative equipment, hire field investigators and research staff, pay for legal actions, and expand Farm Sanctuary’s media campaigns. Give today.

Contact: Farm Sanctuary, Farm Animal Defense Fund, Box 150, Watkins Glen, NY 14891; 607-583-2225;


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