Contributing Monkie Sarma Melngailis
Published on August 12, 2010
Photographer Sarma Melngailis
My favorite quote on the issue of being vegetarian, or not. Exactly why I don’t call myself a vegetarian, vegan, raw foodist, environmentalist, or anything-ist.
“I think that people have framed this conversation in absolutes. Either you are or you aren’t. The word vegetarian, I think, does a disservice because there are a lot of people who care but maybe don’t care, or can’t care in an ultimate way. If you think about environmentalism, nobody would ask, “Are you an environmentalist or not?” The question doesn’t make any sense. And the notion that the first time you drive in a car or fly in a plane that you should throw your hands up in the air and say, “Okay, well I give up. I’m not going to try at all anymore,” is crazy. If people thought about food more like how we think about the environment, a lot of people would be eating differently and the whole system would look a lot different.”
I get asked a lot if I’m vegetarian, or vegan. I don’t call myself or think of myself that way, even though I eat that way most of the time. Just not 100% of the time. And I don’t like rules. Some people are absolutist about it which is actually admirable, but it’s not what works for me. And I don’t think pushing absolutism onto others is what will change the world.
People! Just… shift. I hear this a lot: ”Oh, I tried to go vegetarian but it was just too hard!” Well, did you try just maybe eating less meat? Same thing with being raw. If the goal is to get more people in the world to shift more to raw plant based foods and be healthier (and happier), lets just make it appealing! Not act like it’s a strict way of life, or requiring all kinds of sacrifice and change, which is intimidating.
I may care about the environment enough to recycle, compost, drink out of my own metal bottles, and generally try to be less of a “consumer” of stuff, but I’m still going to hop a plane to Tokyo if I get another invite, and sometimes I take really long showers. It all comes down to thinking about living in a community, which includes animals too, and an eco-system that’s getting seriously messed up. If everyone knew what was happening to the fish in the oceans and what that’s doing to our environment, people would be eating a lot less tuna melts. Or, I’d hope so.
I’m sure anyone who loves JSF’s book and has tried to gently pass it along or suggest it has heard “Oh! I heard about that book. I don’t want to read that… isn’t it going to make me want to not eat meat anymore?” I want to push my head through a wall every time I hear this. Or, push theirs! I mean really… really?? Did you really just say that? Why do so many people have this response?
Part of me wants to shove their face in the book, strap them down in front of the right documentaries, and ask, “Really? You want to keep on F-ing up the world for everyone else, keep everyone on the destruction train until we crash, just because somehow the idea of shifting what you eat is too… too what? Offensive? Difficult?” You really don’t want to know what you’re eating?
Then I try to relax and get back to my optimistic state. I try to stay far away from being judgmental. But I don’t think what I’m writing here is about being judgmental–it’s about wanting people to be informed. And also, I really don’t want to push anyone’s head through a wall. I mean, I don’t think so.