I just read this Slate.com article by Christopher Cox, an oyster-eating vegan who argues that even a strict vegan should feel comfortable eating oysters (since farming produces minimal negative impact on their ecosystems and there’s no less doubt that oysters feel pain than that plants do).  Cox talks about losing the vegan title, because technically he can’t call himself a vegan if he’s eating oysters:

Because I eat oysters, I shouldn’t call myself a vegan. I’m not even a vegetarian. I am a pescetarian, or a flexitarian, or maybe there’s an even more awkward word to describe my diet. At first I despaired over losing the vegan badge of honor—I do everything else vegans do—but I got over it. Oysters may be animals, but even the strictest ethicist should feel comfortable eating them by the boatload.

I read this and first of all had to look up what a flexitarian is:

flex·i·tar·i·an

(flěk’sĭ-târ’ē-ən) n.  One who normally maintains a vegetarian diet but occasionally makes exceptions and eats meat or fish.

Then I started thinking, why is it that we have to label ourselves by what we eat in the first place?  Cox goes on to say:

When I talked about this article with my editor at Slate, she said, “I won’t lie—you’ll be attacked viciously for being a vegan, and attacked equally viciously for not being a strict enough vegan.”

Changing your diet not only requires a change in food consumption, but an on-hand knowledge of reasons and facts to draw on when defending your diet to other skeptics.  A good friend of mine went through this when going vegetarian a few years ago and always felt anxious around family gatherings because she knew she would be attacked with questions like why don’t you eat meat? how are you getting your protein? are you sure you’re getting enough? aren’t you afraid you’re going to waste away? etc. etc., you get the picture – I can imagine it got old fast.

That is one of the reasons I don’t really want to call myself a Vegetarian (even though I am considering staying mainly vegetarian or even vegan after this month-long challenge).  Because what if some day I want to eat a chicken burger or have sour cream on my potatoes?  If anyone witnessed this behaviour coming from a “vegan” I can imagine this would be a huge no-no, as if I’m betraying my religion.

But what is a vegan anyway?  Yes, for the past 16 days I haven’t eaten meat or dairy, but I did kill a spider last night (on purpose) and I’m pretty sure the paper in my textbooks killed a few hundred trees, which destroyed a whackload of forest creatures (not very vegan), and the gas my car’s using definitely is not helping members of the planet ( not too environmentally-friendly or vegan either).

What I’m trying to say is where do you draw the line??  Everything we do has an effect on something or someone else.  There can be self-titled vegans who drive gas-guzzling hummers, or meat-eaters who plant trees and subscribe to the 100-mile diet.  In the end I just don’t think the labels make all that much difference.

I don’t know.  I guess if I have to label myself after all this I’ll be a flexitarian (…?)  I just think it’s strange how we label ourselves based on the food we consume.  I understand that we’re categorizing beings and need labels to make sense of ourselves and of others, but where do you really draw the line between a pescetarian and a flexitarian, or a vegan and a vegetarian – and in the end what’s the point?  People can get all heated and defensive if put to the test regarding  personal food behaviour and morals.  I guess if “you are what you eat” is true – and I think to a certain extent it is – then it makes sense that people would get so emotional about the whole topic, I’m just confused by it all.

Oh and p.s. I cheated and ate honey (not vegan) and drank a Grower’s Cider that has processed sugar (not vegan). My bad.  Other than that I’ve been good, I promise.

Advertisements