I know I’ve been tending more towards the pregnancy side of things instead of the plant-based diet side of things, but after another fantastic Greek Easter (sarcasm!), I have some venting to do. This venting may not appeal to you, which is fine, I do not judge the way other people eat. But when other people criticize the way I eat, I think I’m allowed to rant about it.
Greek Easter (usually 2 weeks after regular Easter) holds a special place in my heart because it’s my vegetarian anniversary. As you may know, it is tradition that lamb be served on Greek Easter, or even more traditionally, that a lamb be slaughtered and roasted on a spit. Sixteen years ago, after one such meal (it was store bought, not slaughtered and roasted thank God), as I was washing bloody –looking lamb gravy, I started involuntarily crying for the lamb, thinking about how it was just a baby and was taken from its mother and killed. I haven’t eaten meat since then.
Eight years later on a farm in British Columbia, I helped birth a little lamb who was then rejected by her mother. That first night, I fed her warmed up goats milk, wrapped her in a towel and snuggled with her in my bed to keep her warm. I was nicknamed “Mary” since she followed me everywhere (when she wasn’t playing with the other lambs on the rocky hillside; their favourite game was jumping from rock to rock). She would wait for me to by the fence to come back from the garden every day, and I would bring her out to the pasture to graze. Once she was full grown and didn’t need to be hand fed anymore, she went with some of the other sheep to a different farm, where she was used for her wool, but I received a solid promise she would not be used for meat. She was such a friendly sheep, because she wasn’t afraid of humans at all.
So I sit through Greek Easter, silently, eating my potatoes and broccoli and salad. I don’t complain, or make gross faces, or hint towards how disgusting I think eating lamb is. I say no thanks when it’s passed around and I endure the taunts I get from the rest of my extended family. They mostly “baa” at me a little bit, and ask me if I want to bring some home for my husband. I have put up with this for SIXTEEN years. This year it culminated in a family member telling me that the reason all vegetarians are fat is because they don’t eat enough protein and they eat too many carbs. There was so much wrong with that statement that I was honestly speechless.
But now I have two little people coming into the world. Two little impressionable people who I want to teach compassion, nutrition, and love for all animals, whether they’re dogs and cats, or sheep and cows.
I understand that meat-eaters often feel judged by my way of eating (even though it’s my choice and has nothing to do with them) regardless of what I say. Just by virtue of me saying “No thanks” they seem to feel like they somehow have to justify their choices. And I understand that when a person gets defensive, sometimes they can say hurtful things just to make themselves feel better. But I can’t explain that to 3-year-olds. If these sorts of conversations continue in my family, they are going to feel judged and not know why. I don’t want them to question what they eat when they are young, they can decide how to eat when they are older and have all the information. I don’t want anyone slipping my kids some meat because they don’t think the way I eat is healthy, or because they think my kids are being deprived in some way. Am I naive to hope that for my kids eating meat will not be an issue? I don’t want it to come up; I don’t want it to be a question. I want to read books about farms to them and not have to explain why Bessie is also found on a dinner table, because there is no reasonable answer to that question!
I am a bleeding heart, I know that. I am overly-sensitive, and I allow the way animals are treated to affect me. But so what??? Why is that a sign of weakness? I fear for the day when (if I have a boy) my son realizes that Real Men Barbeque Meat, and that he HAS to have a hotdog at a baseball game. To me, there is nothing sexier than a vegetarian man and that’s what I hope to raise, someone who is compassionate and informed, able to stand up for those who have no voice, and not afraid to be different from others. But I hope at least for the first few years, my children don’t need to hear about the rest of world’s insanity, and judgement, especially coming from their own family. I just want to protect them for a little while, and give them a safe place to eat good food.
This might be harder than I thought.