Clarity, supposedly. Or that’s what I thought. Apparently I’m wrong.
What am I waffling about? You may well ask. (And hello, by the way. I’m still here, post US presidential election. And the less said about that the better. Much the same as with Brexit, here in the UK).
So, to the point. Vegetarianism. Do you know what a vegetarian is? Seriously. I thought I did but it appears that, even with a name so seemingly self-explanatory, there is still room for misunderstanding. Which, I have to say, baffles me.
As I’ve mentioned before, I am a vegan (so, not only do I not eat meat, but also any of the products produced by living animals - in case you’re not clear on this); but before that I was vegetarian. This means I stopped eating meat, and all meat-related products - this includes not just the obvious stuff like beef, steak, lamb, sausages, chicken fillets, turkey, bacon, liver, kidneys, duck, etc, but also potted meat, meat-based patés, meat-based gravy, Bovril, and the like - anything that involves eating any part of the animal itself, which requires the death of said animal for the purpose of feeding me.
Now, you may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned fish, crustaceans (crab, lobster, shrimp), or sea mammals like whale or shark (I think shark is a mammal, or just an abnormally large fish with very big teeth. Or is it a dinosaur? I have a vague notion that I read that somewhere… *looks vaguely perplexed*). Anyway, apparently, to some people, fish don’t count as meat. Which, I have to say, comes as a bit of a surprise to me, considering the fact that they are living, breathing, sentient entities.
And since my main reason for becoming vegetarian in the first place was to do with the ethical considerations, then this categorisation really is befuddling. A bit like saying that Jews, or blacks, or muslims, or the poor, or women aren’t human, and therefore aren’t entitled to the same rights as ‘real humans’. Don’t eat cows, but you can chow down on as much fish as you like ‘cos it’s good for you.
I mention this because I happened to watch a self-proclaimed vegetarian on YouTube sharing one of her meals - which contained tuna fish. I was astonished. Nay, I was veritably irritated. I wanted to rip that chickpea and tuna salad out of her hands, and toss it over her head. How DARE she call herself something she’s not, and confuse all those viewers out there who are perhaps thinking of following her lead, and who are being fed false and confusing information?!
Fish and crustaceans are conscious, feeling beings too, you know. Do you know that lobsters scream when they are boiled alive? Wouldn’t you? I mean, which sadistic monster came up with that as a method for cooking them? At least if you’re going to eat meat then have the decency to kill it before you cook it. And do it humanely: don’t fucking torture it to death.
What confused me about this woman’s strange assertion was the fact that she appeared to have come to this decision about giving up meat after reading a book about the ethics of eating meat. So… did she miss the bit that referred to fish et al as being living creatures, and therefore not included in the canon of things a vegetarian can eat; or did the author neglect to mention them?
Or is it, perhaps, me and my expectations and understanding of the word vegetarian, and the concept thereof - yet another instance of the difference between autistic and non-autistic? Is this an example of my need to rigidly adhere to the letter of the law (in this case, of vegetarianism), my black and white, literal perspective on things? I have come across this difference before, and it seems to me that neuros are less concerned with following a thing exactly, and instead follow the spirit of the thing rather than the wording, and so frequently ignore the bits that don’t concern them, but which to me seem rather important.
I had another, recent example of this when I went to my usual greengrocer, who made the comment that the fruit and veg I’d just bought “should keep them going” (“them” being the family he assumed I was feeding, due to the amount of produce I buy). I decided to correct him, and told him it was all for me, to which he posed the question of whether I was a vegetarian. I told him yes, and he then told me that so was he, mainly: he just ate a couple of slices of roast beef on Sundays, and the occasional piece of chicken at the weekend. I thought he was joking. But then I realised he wasn’t.
And there are many people like him, and the YouTube lady. People seem to have a real problem with the idea of giving up something entirely. It seems that abstinence is not well-thought of, nor even well-understood, in our society.
And once again we return to the indisputable fact that language for an autistic is a relatively ineffectual way of both communicating with, and understanding, the world - ‘cos the world doesn’t mean what it says.
By the way, I would just like to point out that, despite the possible tone of this post, I am not one of those vegans/vegetarians who think that the whole world should stop eating meat and meat products. I would strongly (VERY STRONGLY) prefer it if people at least bought their meat products from an organic source, or someone you know treats their animals humanely whilst they are alive, and when slaughtering them. But I don’t insist that the whole world should follow my example. We are not all the same, and there are some people who need animal products in their diet in order to function effectively, and stay healthy.
I am aware that being vegetarian/vegan doesn’t naturally mean being healthier. There are unhealthy, unhappy vegans/vegetarians in the world, some of whom eat crap: it’s just non-animal produced crap, so they feel better about themselves for not contributing to the widespread cruelty to animals. Sometimes it’s because they don’t understand nutrition, so they haven’t worked out a balanced, healthy, vegetarian diet. Sometimes it’s because they’ve made the decision based purely on ethical grounds, and/or guilt and anger about the poor treatment of animals, but that’s it: they’re trying to make a point, but they’re not happy about it - and they really miss meat.
Fortunately for me, I’m not in any of the above categories. I am happy to be able to say that, whilst ethical considerations were a major part of my reasons for finally giving up meat entirely, I was led to that decision gradually, when I was ready for it, and giving the stuff up was no big deal because I’d already reduced my meat intake (again, gradually) until I was primarily eating a healthy, balanced, vegetarian diet (I did a whole LOAD of research on the subject! Instead of just being food-obsessed, I was now health food-obsessed). And my need to change my entire diet, and become healthy, was primarily activated by my eating disorder - so, for me, it’s part of my recovery. If I eat crap, even non-animal based crap, I’m in shit.
Well, there we go. I hope you’re all enjoying your food. And, since we’re in the holiday season, if you can spare a thought (and the money, ‘cos I know organic and free-range costs more), please think about where your turkey is coming from, and the conditions in which it's been raised.