Sometime ago I received a few pages copied from "Vegetarians Who Return to
Meat" by Kristin Aronson, Ph.D. I am posting a few excerpts from these
pages and hope you will find them just as enlightening as I have.
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"I once heard an eminent vegan berate a beekeeper who tried to explain the
ethics of his relatively humane system. The veganís ears were plugged if
not with beeswax then with the silt of pre-judgement. He heard nothing,
talked over the defenderís honest words, his head abuzz with stereotypes,
and stung without mercy. Eavesdropping, I cheered on the beekeeper, but
his words were never allowed to leave the hive: the vegan smothered him in
an acrid cloud of arrogance.
Such deadly barbs of criticism, sometimes directed into others by vegans,
are too much like the actions of flesh eaters whose diets they decry -
cutting, stabbing, piercing, flaying. Indeed, inattention to others,
refusing to listen, or hearing only what conforms to what one thinks one
already knows, is really a form of power-over, and thus rooted in the same
violence which leads to factory farms. The tongue is a most valuable
organ; but the ears, an invaluable one."
"Meat eating itself is considered by some to be unclean, and those who
forsake it, unsullied. Like children who wash scrupulously before meals,
some vegetarians seem to expect a karmic return on their conscious
investment, a reward for their sanitary habits. Sometimes they sound
saint-like, even when silent. "If I sacrifice enough," they seem to say,
"Iíll be healthy. If I deprive myself, Iíll be full." But it is unhealthy
health which required denial, and fullness can be the inflation of a false
pride. Thus, ironically, the very thing we think scrubs us clean can be
the thing which stains us, as if we washed with a soap laced with an
inedible dye. The question then becomes: Which is the greater blemish -
eating flesh, or being self-righteous?
Vegetarians commonly say that they do not judge others, yet they may feel
superior to others, and to fell superior is to judge. To think we are
better is to think others are worse: this is a simple matter of logic. To
say, "Flesh eaters can be good, even so," is condescending; it is as
though they must make up for their failing by being better in some way.
When we condescend, we put others below us, and the heavier the moral
burden of proof we place on them, the harder it will be for them to look
up, as we look down on them, from on high. Looking down on others is just
as bad as having power over them, and for the same reason: when we admire
vegetarians as "higher," we are still mired in hierarchy."
"Freud thought that cleanliness was a tell-tale mark of civilization.
Vegetarians perhaps believe, viscerally, if not cognitively, that flesh
eaters are not so much below us as behind us, less advanced, more
primitive, waiting to catch up. It is sometimes said that there are two
kinds of people in the world - vegetarians and "pre-vegetarians." But if
we think that we are relatively civilized, then we think others are
relatively more savage and unclean. If the vegetarian is the prototype of
the perfect person, where the arrow of spiritual evolution is pointing,
then others can only be left behind."
"A vegetarian may be a rebel in search of a cause. For those who are
young, incompletely formed in character, or insecure, identity with an
"ism" can fill a great void. Indeed, the desire to be different which
often accompanies the desire for affiliation, can mask a desired to be
noticed, to be able to criticize, to aggrandize the self, and to belittle
others. Here vegetarianism becomes not only a matter of elitism, but also
a matter of ego."
"After they begin eating meat again, lapsed vegetarians change - often
dramatically . They seem to have mellowed, grown older and wiser, found
the "meden agan" (the middle way), the Tao, the line of least resistance.
They accommodate others, placing the relational before the radical, people
before principles. They become more holistic, and often more humane. They
make excuses not so much for who they are but for who they once were.
Sometimes there is struggle, conflict, and guilt; but the process seems to
be the dynamic one of growth, rather than of wilting. They are not so much
corrupted, like Yuppies, mocking their moneyless days, as they are
awakened, like the Buddha, to the narrowness of their former ways. They do
not argue that meat eating is right, but abandon right and wrong as
divisive. They do not abandon ideals, but replace them, often going
through a ruthless process of self-examination. They see the world they
once inhabited as relatively small and tight, and move into a expanded one,
thinking more for themselves, and less as they are told by others."
"Post-vegetarians talk much more freely about purity, self-righteousness,
elitism, and ego than present ones, for they have no reason for "mauvais"
(self-deception or denial. They can look back at what they were from a
distance which delineates details once too close and/or too painful to
decry. Contrasting how they once spoke about their vegetarianism and how
they now speak is edifying."