Source: MaddoxNow, don’t get me wrong – I love animals. To use the old joke, I love them baked, boiled, or fried – or even all three. Of course at the same time, for the past four years as a college student I feel I’ve almost been a vegetarian because I mainly consist on cranberry juice, plain ramen, and EZ Mac. No meat to be found there, of course! At the same time though, I’ve always kind of felt that some vegetarian arguments to be kind of iffy. Fellow animals are our companions on the earth, some of their species are our friends, but of course some are universally disliked (many more parasitic-types) and what classifies which animals are worth more? I mean, if you’re a vegetarian, you have to understand that in the “perfect non-meat-eating world” you’re going to be growing huge swaths of grain as well…what about all the little bunnies and chipmunks and other adorable little animals that are getting run over and gruesomely converted into blood mulch? (Now imagine them with Disney eyes; “I’m sorry Thumper, your mother can’t be with you any longer”). I don’t know what vegetarians think about that, but I hope at least a chipmunk has the same moral value as a steer, as they’re both pretty adorable in my opinion. The steer drools, though; off with his head!

Of course, the environmental arguments are a lot more solid, in my opinion. Everyone knows it takes far more energy/water to make a pound of beef versus a pound of grain (2500:1 gallons) and the land useage used by cattle in particular is just enormous. I can have a lot more respect for the vegetarian idea if that’s one of their principles. In fact, that might be the sort of thing that drives me to at least try tofu more often.

But primarily, I’ve always been a pragmatist. Dr Patricia McConnell, a radio show host and zoologist that I’ve been listening to my whole life, as well as a former professor of mine on Human/Animal bioethics, sums it up best…”Animals deserve welfare, but they do not deserve rights.” My mother, a veterinarian, kind of raised me the same way. You treat animals properly, you don’t support factory farming, and buy local when you can. But beyond that, what is there? Animals shouldn’t be eaten on principle of they deserve not to be eaten? To borrow (and slightly modify) from Ben Franklin (I’m doing a lot of borrowing tonight, I believe) – “If God made animals not to be eaten, why did He make them so darned delicious?”

Which brings me to my experience in Witte Hall this afternoon, surrounded by people who would rather eat brussels than beef.

I was invited (via Facebook, of course; how else does one get involved in atypical events?) to “Veg Pledge Week 2008” and figured that it would be a good, wholesome event that would allow me to broaden my horizons and as a senior I might not get the chance to do it again. More importantly, I read further and saw I got free food each night if I did it. Score!

So I show up at the tiny cafeteria in the basement of Witte where the Campus Veg*an Society was putting together a feast of falafel (perhaps the funnest word in the world). The door prize sign in question was:

In your opinion, what is the most compelling reason to go Vegan/Vegetarian – Veg*an?

Of course, like a smart ass I proceed to write:

Health benefits only. In my opinion, animals have no rights besides to be treated humanely, however that does not mean that we should not eat them.

I drop the little card in the box and continue into the dining room. Of course, AFTER the tasty meal (it really was, too; I have this perception of vegetarian-esque foods as being bland as heck; I blame previous experience with poorly-presented tofu) the organizer starts calling out names and handing out the door prizes I realize suddenly that I really don’t want my little comment read to the assembled throngs of vegetarians and vegans. As the opening prizes are handed out to philosophically-minded eaters with comments about the social and environmental benefits of a non meat diet, I slide down as low into my seat as I can. Of course, karma had to strike…I win the last, largest prize, a whole cornucopia of goodies from a organic food store (soymilk, organic jam, veggie chips/crackers, a peeler, and more, all tucked into a colander).

As everyone politely applauds, I dart up and mutter to the organizer, “No need to read that aloud, please” as she starts to describe my “compelling reason” to go veg*an, which would have been complete with my idiot comment. She reads my note silently, looks up at me and murmurs, “what do you mean?” Health reasons, I half-shout, grinning and flushing embarrassingly. I accept the gift, and slink back to my seat. I felt like a total heel…I tried to assuage my guilty conscience by helping the staff clean up the kitchen after everyone else had left…but for me to win the grand prize after making a dumb comment about people’s beliefs? Clearly, someone up there is trying to tell me something!

NOTE: several hours later, after the weekly CAN meeting, I dug a huge chunk of glass out of my front bike tire, which is totally slit and can’t hold air longer than 50 seconds. I knew I shouldn’t have tempted karma…