Well, at least not very often. Let me elaborate.
Today I wrote an email, to people who had signed up on a list, to let them know that today was the last day to get the best deal on Marathon Roadmap. I was explaining how the big, sleazy internet marketing gurus tell you to “twist the knife” on the last day of a sale, so that people are encouraged to buy, for fear of feeling bad later on if they don’t.
Obviously, that’d be pretty creepy. I’m sure that doing that would not only hurt sales; it would totally clash with the message I try to send here — that “vegetarian” should be friendly, non-pushy, and non-preachy. (And, at least the way I see it, that’s the way offering stuff up for sale should be, too.)
So I made a little joke that I wouldn’t be twisting any knife, since vegetarians don’t really use knives anyway. And then that image struck me as a pretty neat little metaphor for what this lifestyle is about.
What do you mean, vegetarians don’t use knives?
Vegetarians use knives sometimes. Any vegetarian who I know cooks way more than is typical, and cooking usually requires knives. Obviously. Eating, though, is a different story.
So after I wrote that, I tried to think about the last time I ate with a knife. And, being completely honest here, I can’t remember it. Most of what my family eats nowadays are one-pot, one-dish meals (like “a grain, a green, and a bean“). You know: pasta dishes, soups, stews, casserole-type things, etc.
And even when it’s not that, almost nothing we eat is tough enough to require a knife. Seems like maybe raw vegetables would be an exception, but even those are usually chopped pretty small during preparation.
Why does this matter?
Speaking literally, it doesn’t. Who cares what cutlery you use to eat. (Trust me, I’m not such a tree-hugger that I think it’s wrong to cut your food.)
But figuratively, it’s a pretty cool symbol for what we stand for, isn’t it?
I’ve learned not to make No Meat Athlete about ethical arguments or to stir up controversy, or even to try to do too much in the way of pointing out the horrible things that still happen to animals. I’m glad there are people out there who do promote vegetarianism (or more often, veganism) this way, but I know that my particular brand of spreading the message is about giving people proof that a plant-based diet can work with doing things that lots of people consider impossible for themselves on any diet, and providing them with the tools to try it out and (hopefully) succeed.
But one thing that really isn’t controversial, I don’t think, is that when you start to eat this way, you do begin to feel just a little bit more compassionate towards animals. I once read that as a parent, the main reason you feel love for your children is simply because they depend on you. And to me, that’s sort of how choosing not to eat animals makes you care more about them.
Shocker: Being friendly feels good
In a particularly unabashed, mildly naive new-vegetarian moment about a year ago, I wrote a post called “75 Ways Going Vegetarian Has Made My Life Better.” Recently someone left a halfway negative comment on it:
This is a great list and everything, but I don’t really see what stopping for a stray dog has to do with being vegetarian. I’m kind of in shock that you didn’t do that before. Perhaps you’re implying that being vegetarian makes you more compassionate towards animals, but it upsets me that this is what it took for you to care about animals. I guess it’s good that this change took place, but even when I ate meat years and years ago I would never even think of blowing on by a stray animal.
Yes, I’m a little ashamed that a few years back, I probably wouldn’t have felt compelled to stop and pick up a stray dog, if it would have caused me to be late for school or work or whatever I was doing at the time that I thought couldn’t wait.
But to me, the fact that now I wouldn’t dream of passing by a lost, helpless animal is a pretty good example of the power of a behavior change to shift how you think and how you feel, and for the better.
Sure, one could point out that perhaps compassion was the reason for my change in diet, and not the other way around. I know that’s not the whole story, but they’d probably be unconvinced.
But again, convincing isn’t what it’s about. Be an example of what’s possible; do your part to change the perceptions that vegetarians and vegans are weak. You’ll inspire far more people than you realize.