Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Here comes another self righteous vegetarian

The other day I remarked to my father that having a baby is a lot like being in first year university. Always quick on the uptake he said, "So you're becoming a marxist?".

But seriously, like first year university, the first year of motherhood is a time when you are introduced to an overwhelming range of new ideals and values and lifestyles at the same time as you grow into the new version of your old self. Suddenly all of your choices seem to carry the weight of a new life and the world he will live in, and an enthusiasm for making that the very best world it can be seems impossible to avoid.

Before Ollie was born my husband and I agreed that it made sense to work towards a household that, as often as possible, uses only natural products for cleaning and personal care and for the most part we've been able to hold to that (with only a few slip ups along the way). Making sure that the products that go on Ollie's skin, inevitably in his mouth, and down the drain and into the ground he plays on are safe was a no-brainer.

But watching that chain of contact - directly with Ollie's body, onto Ollie's things, into Ollie's world, has shifted my focus to a broader perspective on keeping the world safe and clean for Ollie. For about ten years of my adolesence I was a vegetarian (albeit, not a very good one), but somewhere around the end of university my occasional lapses turned into a regular meat eating habit. I've carried a nagging feeling about the many good reasons I shouldn't be.

I picked up Jonathan Safron Foer's Eating Animals from the Toronto Public Library (actually, downloaded it to my Kobo), and have been completely fascinated and horrified by it since opening the first page.

The book immediately spoke to me, as Safron Foer describes his interest in the subject stemming from the birth of his son and the question, how to talk to his child about eating animals. Its something I've thought about a lot too, especially as Ollie's diet expands beyond breast milk at the same time as he develops a greater interest in the animals he sees around him in our lives.

Of course, in the quest to find out more about why we eat animals and where they come from, JSF (easier to type) encounters many disgusting and completely unethical practices around the meat we eat. I'm actually only halfway through the book, but the information I've taken in so far is unsurprisingly shocking.

And that's the real eye opener for me in reading this book. The information is shocking, but not surprising. Meat eaters who I mention it to usually say "Oh, why would you want to read that? You don't need to hear about that stuff". Everyone seems to KNOW that there's something wrong with our "flesh foods" (my naturopath's terminology), but they'd rather not think about it.

I could quote on and on from the book the many many compelling arguments against eating animals (including fish, seriously, ask me about why if you want to know), but for me it is starting to come down to a few facts:

1) I find it inconsistent tell Ollie to be "gentle" with animals and then carve up a side of beef
2) I have a visceral repulsion to the idea of Ollie eating meat
3) As an urban dwelling person with loads of choices in my grocery stores, restaurants and takeout joints it is just as easy to not eat meat and animal products as it is to eat them

Of course, like any newly adopted ideal, there's going to be an adjustment period, and I'm going to have to make some exceptions from time to time (for instance, in the interest of the environment, if someone serves me meat I feel like it might be a greater sin to waste than to eat it). There are also downsides and things to be worked out.. am I really not going to wear leather ever again? Will Ollie ever eat meat? But for the last two weeks I have been easing into a vegetarian/vegan diet, and honestly, not much has changed except my attitude towards the food I eat.

I'd love to hear from someone who's raising their baby as a vegetarian/vegan, because I know that this choice annoys a lot of people when you are a grown adult, so I can't imagine how people must respond to hearing that you've made that choice for your child too. I'm open to it for Ollie and am iterested in how it is going for others.

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