Why I’m Not A Vegetarian

I am a carnivore, but I love animals. I’m not a vegetarian, but I eat fish. I am not a plant-based vegetarian, and I eat meat on occasion. I am not in any way ashamed to eat other animals, but I am not passionate about them. They are more my friends, than anything else.

One has to wonder how the most successful, busy people get it all done. The beloved Oprah, for one, has acted in and produced dozens of award-winning films, launched several lucrative talk shows and published one of the most-recognized magazines of all time — all while overcoming a sincerely difficult past. Whew. I think we can all agree that you’ve been a productive member of society, not only in your work and career, but as part of society or your family.

So what’s it like for you when everyone treats you like you live on a different planet? When everyone else seems to be having so much more fun — just don’t take it personally.

I think of my days as a vegetarian, and what I had to do to survive as a carnivore in an increasingly plant-based world. I had to figure out what I was eating, how it was made, and what I was giving up. And I had to learn how to get by in an increasingly-organic and meat-free environment.

I am not an expert. No one is. But I do know how to find out, and I have done just that. I’ve come to understand that the animal world is a complex world, and it will take effort to change my perspective.

For example, I had to learn about what different foods made up my vegetarian diet, and I found that not every animal-based product was really vegetarian. Some ingredients, like eggs and animal fat, had to go, but I knew that in order to make the most of my food choices, I’d need to be conscious of the animal-product ingredients in their preparation. So I learned to eliminate processed foods, such as breads and pastas, to get the full nutrients I needed.

As for meat, I realized that I had to get rid of all animal-based foods in my kitchen altogether, to make room for something plant-based. It wasn’t an easy transition. I had to learn about meat, how it was raised, slaughtered, cooked, and what it was actually made of. I had to learn about the animals that lived and died around me at every meal — I had to learn about the conditions they lived in. I had to learn about their health. And I had to learn how important they were in my life and how much they meant to me, all in an effort to maintain what was left of my relationship with them.

I’m not trying to trivialize the suffering and suffering of animals — to the contrary, I’m thrilled that there are still so many vegetarians and vegans that find great joy in eating healthy animal products. But the animal world is too complex and so diverse that it’s not possible for me as an omnivore to fully comprehend every detail. I have to trust in my own wisdom and instinct to know when I’ve had enough, but also look to someone else for a source.

Because you’ve got to remember: I’m a woman in her 60’s. I’m not at all obese and never have been. This is a person who enjoys an active lifestyle, whose lifestyle requires her to travel far distances and use mass transit (in and out of Pittsburgh). My doctor is completely unaware of, and perhaps not even interested in, my health issues associated with a vegetarian diet. I don’t have a family doctor with whom I could discuss my medical issues. 

So, let’s be clear: It ain’t a small task to make all the changes you need to make. But you don’t have to quit your job and lose your health in order to get it done.