I first became a vegetarian over 20 years ago, when I was in 8th grade. I had a friend who elected to eschew meat around the same time. Although we independently reached the same decision, our motivations were slightly different. She had developed an almost militant position on animal rights, whereas I chose to go vegetarian for health, taste, environment and a concern for animals.
She was only vegetarian for a year, yet I learned so much from watching her. Her heart was in the right place; she had a cause that she was passionate about and she wanted to share it with others. Her intentions may have been good, but her execution wasn’t. She would preach at the friends who shared her lunch table, relating stories of animal slaughter and meat processing. I once saw her grab a ham sandwich from a boy’s hand and throw it in the garbage. She was wanting to inspire others to embrace vegetarianism but the result was the opposite. Her strong arm tactics were a turn-off and her friends were not open to entertaining any new ideas.
I learned from her that year. I learned that, if you want to inspire change, it is better to do it through actions rather than words. I wasn’t ashamed of my diet but nor did I flaunt it. I happily answered questions when they were asked but I tried not to give unsolicited advice. I don’t try to sway people to vegetarianism. After all, that is their choice. Instead, my goal is to be a source of information. Perhaps an inspiration. I can share why I made my choice and how it has worked for me, but that does not mean that it is right for you. I respect your choice and I ask that you respect mine.
My fiance is a meat eater, although he has drastically reduced his consumption since we have been together. I enjoy the look on his face when enjoys a good steak, even though the sight of the meat turns my stomach. I live vicariously through Anthony Bourdain as he travels the globe eating every part of every animal on the planet. I like hearing about new recipes even if I’ll never taste them.
And that’s the lesson I live by. My relationships are with people, not with their diets. No way of eating is more “right” than any other.
I’m happy to inform you about what is on my plate, but I’d never force you to eat it. My role is to educate so that you have information needed to make the best choice for you at this time.
Teach, don’t preach.