While I was sitting on the subway reading The Week this afternoon I found myself pausing on the page that has the recipe of the week. This week it is French onion soup and there is a picture of four bowls containing French onion soup covered by crusty bread and decadently oozing with browned and bubbling cheese. The bald, slightly overweight man who had unnecessarily sat just a little too close to me one stop earlier was clearly drawn in by this picture as well because he chose to point at the picture (in the magazine sitting on my lap mind you) and say, “That looks good doesn’t it?” I nod, say, “Sure does,” and attempt to go back to reading. It should also be noted that I was listening to my iPod, clearly trying to block out as much of the world around me as possible on this transit from point a to point b.
“Too bad I gave up cheese.” Oh boy, here we go. He is going to converse with me whether I want to or not. I politely take out the ear bud in the ear closest to him while frantically thinking of what to say. I don’t want to be mean or rude, but I do not want to encourage further conversing. “They make really good vegan cheeses now.” The subway has hit another stop; I silently pray this is where he is getting off. Nope.
“I always say if it has a mommy I won’t eat it. I recently met this woman who said she was a vegetarian, but then ordered fish at a restaurant.” Oh god, this is going to be a very long ride. “I told her, I’m going to say something and you will probably hate me, but you will never eat fish again.” Starting to feel it’s not so hard to hate you buddy. “If you were walking down the sidewalk with your two kids and these two hooks came from out of the sky, hooking each of your children, and whisking them away from your side…then one gets thrown back down with a huge gash in his check because he was too little and the other is never returned, how would you feel?” Really, mister? Do you ruin everyone’s dinners with these stories? “And you know what she said?” No, you’re killing me with the suspense. Please, tell me now. “You’re right. I will never eat fish again, but I hate you.” Your fan club is rapidly growing buddy. “Does a cow or a fish or even a cockroach feel any differently about its babies than we do?” Well, I don’t know. I don’t remember my past lives as cows or fish or cockroaches. If I somehow begin recalling my past lives as animals I’ll let you know how I felt about my young.
“Do you have children?” “No,” I reply…I am more than done with this conversation. He tells me that his 23-year-old daughter hates how vocal he is and is constantly telling him to shut up. Yup, I’m starting to side with your daughter buddy…and I share the same point of view regarding vegetarianism as you do, not a good sign. “It’s been 464 days (I’m sorry if I got the number of days wrong Militant Vegan Man) since I’ve had any meat or dairy.” “That’s impressive,” I reply. And then, there really is a god, we reach the stop that is his. I am free to go back to listening to my music and reading The Week.
And then I began pondering, is it enough to simply live your life and hope that you are an example to others? Or must you fight for every cause you believe in? I have been a vegetarian for sixteen years now. I am slowly venturing into veganism right now. I strongly believe in animal rights. I have done my best to educate myself in regards to where my food comes from. I encourage everyone to read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. I am horrified and appalled at the way we breed, house, and treat animals intended for slaughter or used for dairy and egg production. I am terrified by what people are consuming due to the hormones and chemicals we pump into these animals to produce as much as possible for our pleasure. I am even more distraught by what we are doing to the environment by raising and butchering animals in the ways that we currently do in this country. I strongly believe that everyone who chooses to eat meat, dairy, and eggs needs to fully educate themselves on what is going into the animals, and thus into their bodies, and the way the animals are being kept and the effect that is having on the environment. We have a responsibility to educate ourselves. We also have a responsibility to share our knowledge with others. I do not however believe that I should tell others what to do. I have shared Eating Animals with many friends because I want them to be aware of what they are putting into their bodies and what that is doing to the environment. Should I be more vocal? Should I fight harder? I don’t really know. I just know that I kind of thought the guy on the train was an asshole. I don’t believe in pushing my views and opinions on others. Does that make me an ineffective agent of change in the world?