Why do people choose a vegan or vegetarian diet and give up eating meat?
From feelings of friendship and compassion for animals, to morality or even frank disgust, people who don’t eat meat have interesting reasons.
10 of my favorites, in the words of famous writers, are:
- “Animals are my friends…and I don’t eat my friends.” ― George Bernard Shaw
- “I became a vegetarian after realizing that animals feel afraid, cold, hungry and unhappy like we do. I feel very deeply about vegetarianism and the animal kingdom. It was my dog Boycott who led me to question the right of humans to eat other sentient beings.” ― César Chávez
- “I did not become a vegetarian for my health, I did it for the health of the chickens.” ― Isaac Bashevis Singer
- “It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.” ― Albert Einstein
- “By eating meat we share the responsibility of climate change, the destruction of our forests, and the poisoning of our air and water. The simple act of becoming a vegetarian will make a difference in the health of our planet.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh
- “A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.” ― Leo Tolstoy
- “I have from an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.” ― Leonardo da Vinci
- “Flesh eating is unprovoked murder.” ― Benjamin Franklin
- “Violence begins with the fork.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
- “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” ― Paul McCartney
Some of my own reasons for not eating meat are written into the short story, “Before the Funeral” in Death and the Dream. Here’s an excerpt from the story, where a New Yorker is talking to a relative from the midwest who’s come to town for a family funeral:
“…Yes, you’re right. I am. I’m a vegetarian. I don’t mean to imply I deserve a medal for giving up meat or anything like that. Whole cultures are vegetarian in other parts of the world. It’s not an accomplishment. I mean, it’s not even that unusual here in my neighborhood. People are into health here, yoga, vegans and things like that. You see her over there, sweating, hair up, the one with the rolled-up blue exercise mat? Yoga. There’s a yoga studio over on St. Mark’s Place and another one on First Avenue right around the corner from my apartment. Those people are so healthy it’s disgusting. But in my case, it’s not a New Age thing, not a modern thing; in fact it’s not even that healthy. It doesn’t have to do with health at all.
I can’t bear the appearance of torn flesh, cut flesh. I can’t stand how it looks, smells, and feels. That’s probably why I don’t eat meat. It’s like some kind of weakness. Makes me nauseous just talking about it, honestly. Do you ever feel that way? No?
When you think about it, about the logic of it, livestock eat all that grain — I don’t know, tons or something, to produce just a few pounds of grocery store meat for us to eat. It takes so much more overall effort to feed a carnivore if you calculate the energy backwards. We’re omnivores so we have the choice of eating just about anything, even mushrooms, which just grow on rotting grass or old wood or something. No, they don’t all grow on manure, some different kinds might. I could live on coffee, mushrooms, and bagels maybe. Don’t laugh! Yes, it is a strange combination; you’re right.
I think it was the famous biologist Jane Goodall who wrote about this. It was very well reasoned, the book I read about it, but I can’t remember the title. Something about hope, Harvest for Hope, I think, something like that. I get mixed up when I try to explain it, but if we could all just eat vegetables there would be more food for everyone, no one would starve, and then we wouldn’t have to kill anything at all…” J.J.Brown, Death and the Dream.
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