Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: vegetarianism

Refusing the Chicken

     I was tired. That’s the first problem. Tired and so very hungry. We were eating at a neat hole-in-the-wall west indian place. The food was great, for meat eaters. For vegetarians, there wasn’t much more than a veggie chow mein. An insipid, cold chow mein. Yums.

     I couldn’t stop looking over at the chicken leg my son was not eating. It was fried and tender and perfect-smelling. It wanted me to eat it. I swear, it did. I picked it up and looked at it. It looked back at me. Remember the scene in Hichhiker’s Guide where the mutant livestock was excited for Dent to eat him? That drumstick seemed to be doing the same thing to me. I was on the edge. I opened my mouth to take a bite.

     “Papa, are you eating meat?”

     My son’s voice was not accusatory. He wasn’t judging me. He was just curious. I could have eaten and he would not have thought any less of me.

     He asked me, so long ago, why I didn’t eat meat. I gave him the simplest answer I could: I refuse to partake in any violence. Any. No violence in defense of myself or my country. No violence in instruction or teaching. No violence to satisfy my taste buds. He understood it. He sympathized with it. Sometimes he flirts with vegetarianism because of it.

     But now his dad is holding the leg of a dead chicken, ready to consume it. He doesn’t even realize the real questions he’s asking: “So you’re not as big on the whole non-violence thing as you said, eh? You like non-violence until you’re hungry or tired, eh? You walk the path of peace so long as you feel like it, eh? Good to know. I’ll remember that.”

     I put the chicken down. “Naw, man,” I said. “I don’t eat meat.”

Joe and his Tuna

     A true story from the Cook household:

     The boy was eating his tuna casserole. He loved how it tasted. He was filling his mouth so full that it hurt to swallow. But it was worth it.

     Suddenly a thought came into his head.

     “Mommy, is this chicken?”

     “No,” his mother said.

     He sighed with relief and started filling his mouth again.

     “It’s tuna,” his mother continued.

     “Fhisofiadfs!” he said. Which, if his mouth had been empty, would have sounded like, “Fish?!”

     “Yes.”

     He looked down at the plate, covered in bits of animal corpse, and frowned. “These fish had to die so I could eat them…”

     He looked up at his mother. She shrugged. He looked back at the fish.

     “Fish,” he said. “I’m so sorry that I’m eating you. But I’m starving. You can go in my belly with the noodles and then you can play together.”

     And he continued eating, a little more sober and mindful than before.

     “Ha!” his sister cackled, pointing her finger. “You’re talking to dead chicken!”

On Vegetarianism

     I’ve been a vegetarian for nine months. Last night my son declared himself to be a vegetarian, too, while eating a plate of shepherd’s pie. I pointed out that the beef he was eating was dead cow and, therefore, not vegetarian. He frowned, looked me in the eye and said “Why did you give it to me, then?” He’s decided to try vegetarianism out, and I couldn’t be more excited. I don’t actually believe he will stick with it, he’s only six after all, but I love that he’s thinking about these things.

     There are many reasons I’ve chosen to live meat-free. In the end, it’s a personal choice and matter of conscience. Here’s a few thoughts that led me in this direction:

  • The millions who are starving. The amazing inefficiency of producing animal flesh for food is what made me think about vegetarianism in the first place. Never before have humans consumed so much meat. Most of us say that a meal isn’t a meal without meat, and that sentiment is unprecedented in human history. It’s a bit ironic for me, because I grew up in a church where I was told global hunger was caused by Hindus who sinfully refused to eat cows (seriously, I was told this!). Meanwhile, it takes about sixteen pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat. Most of the earth’s farmland is devoted to producing meat. A global shift away from meat would drive food prices down world-wide and be another blow against world hunger.
  • The cause of non-violence. I am against violence in all forms. Factory farms, where the cast majority of our meat comes from (including organic meat) are sinfully violent. The cows, pigs and chickens are treated in ways that would be illegal if they were cats. I may not think that animals have the divine spark of godhood that humans have, but they are still living creatures like us and I cannot justify causing them to suffer for the sake of my appetite. I abstain for the sake of Jesus’ Path of Peace.
  • My health and well-being. Since removing meat from my diet, I’ve never felt so good. It’s had positive effects on my body, energy and emotional well-being. Even if I did not care about starving people or suffering animals, I would still consider vegetarianism for the benefits I am getting from it.
  • The environment. The UN has issued a report citing animal agricultural as having an effect on the environment nearly on par with the consumption of fossil fuels. And if you know anything about fossil fuels, you know that’s hefty!

     I’m not actually trying to convince anyone to abstain from meat. I’ve made a personal choice based on my conscience. Everyone has to make their own choices, looking to their own consciences. I do think, however, that we humans need to be more mindful about what we eat. We are mindful about our other animal appetites, like sex, and we built spiritual rules around them. I think we need to do the same in regards to the things we eat, don’t you?