did I become a vegetarian?
I spent a fair
bit of time on farms as a kid. I wasn't particularly squeamish -
I would comfortably cut the tails off lambs to stop them getting
flyblown (a necessity here in Australia).
When I was about
12, I went fishing with some adults. Fish was one of my favourite
foods at the time, and I believed that if you want to eat something
you should be willing to kill it. I guess I should point out that
I was a pretty strange 12 year old, already in second year of High
School and reading Animal Farm, 1984 and Brave New World.
thing I certainly didn't know was that fish can make noises. I reeled
in this fish and as the thing writhed and flipped about on the deck
of the boat, it started to scream. I was horrified. I'd never even
heard of a Trumpeter, but it was obvious how they got their name.
One of the adults
told me to stop being silly and chopped off it's head. The mouth
kept moving for quite awhile and the eye seemed to be looking right
at me - but thankfully the squawking had stopped.
I think I was
ill, and then I remembered the fairy tale of the fish who spoke
and granted a fisherman three wishes in exchange for throwing him
back into the sea. Too late for that, thought :( The thing is, it
really seemed like this small, slimy thing was trying to communicate
with us, trying to beg for it's life - or perhaps call for help
from fellow fishes. And is that so irrational? The fight to stay
alive is one of the most fundamental Darwinian principles.
It may seem
like a small and insignificant event. After all, we have companion
animals that we make a personal connection with and generally that
doesn't make people unable to eat meat - perhaps just unwilling
to eat dogs and cats.
forget that this thing that I'd considered to be food was a being.
It's dead body was supposed to make a tasty supper. I just couldn't
eat meat after that.
My Mom insisted
that I go along with her to our family Doctor to see if it was safe
to be a vegetarian. I think she was expecting him to talk me out
of it, especially as I was already a very late-developing teenager,
tiny for my age and a year or two younger than any of my classmates.
He was very sensible about it though, and said that as long as I
had a balanced diet I should be fine. He recommended that we buy
some good books on the subject, which we did. I also found Peter
Singer's "Animal Liberation" and was thrilled to see that my anti-meat
stance was a political statement as well as a very personal choice.
My Mom liked
to tell people that I was "going through a vegetarian stage". She
now admits over two decades later, that it's lasted a little longer
than the average teen fad ;) (Kat Black, April