Ah, we all know them – those skeptical meat eaters that scoff their nose at their vegetarian friends, those boastful “a real man eats steak” comments. And we know the other side too – our annoying touting “hippie” vegetarian friends that try pushing their ethical and environmental agenda to a point of extreme irritation.
As a recently converted vegetarian myself (one year! yahoo to me!), I hopefully am not the latter. And i do find the former quite amusing. No matter how strongly I feel about my agenda now, I must remind myself that a mere 1.5 years ago, I was eating my BBQ chicken pizza with great gusto and zero accountability or guilt.
A friend of mine who attended the NYC Veggie Pride Parade last year told me that he heard a cop say “I don’t wanna know man, ignorance is bliss.”
So what is it then? Are meat eaters aware of the fact that there are issues but don’t feel like they are relevant enough or important enough? For example, my teeshirt. A child in China may have made it and gotten paid nothing. Or, a union worker in the USA may have made it and gotten paid “fairly”. I don’t really know. Should i be investigating into the factory sources of my clothing, shoes and personal belongings? I don’t think there is a “should” – people pick what’s important to them and run with it.
But there are also meat eaters that just don’t know – “blissfully ignorant”, “willfully ignorant”, or simply not exposed to influences or knowledge – because let’s face it, it IS all about information. There is nothing pushing a meat eater to stop consuming meat except new information. Or dislike – but to be honest, meat tastes good, so i can’t flout that argument around.
Eating. Eating ethically, socially and environmentally. Is this important? I would like to say yes. There are quite a few who will disagree with me and say “Viva la vida! Just live life!”
Hmm. Well then who is right and who is wrong? People like me that obsess over ethical farming and the treatment of cows or those who throw up their hands and say “hey look – you can’t control this shit.”
And they’re right. You can’t control anything. I gave up meat, practically gave up eggs, but now i’m onto the milk industry and their shenanigans. I’ve started feeling really passionate about milk. Milk. Yes, good ole innocent creamy and delicious and cold milk. Full of antibiotics and growth hormones, artificially inseminated cows, the whole shabang. Let’s say i give up milk. Then what? Let me start picking at my brands of granola? My fruit and where it comes from and what pesticides it is or isn’t sprayed with? Natural vs. normal peanut butter?
It doesn’t end. In an ever changing world where education and knowledge is key, consumers have become sharper. Food production is different now. Normal refined plain potato chips aren’t satisfactory. There are good and bad foods and people know it. Now we have whole grains, flax, honey. People understand fiber, sugars and the glycemic index. Nutrition labels are actually read and decisions are based on them. Cereals tout protein and minerals – “low fat” “high in fiber” “low in cholesterol” and “essential amino acids” are normal packaging terms now. I would say with confidence that overall awareness of consumers has dramatically risen in the past decade.
And it needs to keep rising. Enough with the government subsidizing the wrong types of foods, and enough with healthcare costs jumping through the roof because of preventable diseases such as obesity (non genetic).
I recently discovered a new restaurant, a gem of a find, called Otarian. It recently opened in London and NYC and it’s interesting because its ethical, vegetarian fast food! There are two locations in NYC and i recently tried the 8th avenue location. I was immediately drawn to this restaurant because of its website and the mission of the restaurant. Some things i loved:
- This is an environmental, ethical and socially responsible restaurant. The menu compares the carbon impact on the planet of ordering the meat equivalent of a veggie burger (ie a Big Mac) and the Otarion equivalent. Some of you may be wondering what carbon impact has to do with food. Basically, meat is expensive. In lots of ways.
A 2006 United Nations report summarized the devastation caused by the meat industry by calling it “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” These links are helpful: Goveg.com,Rethinking the Meat Guzzler.
- Unlike other vegetarian and vegan restaurants which have “meat substitutes” and are really promoting the “anti meat” aka soy, tempeh, etc – this restaurant was refreshingly devoid of “fake duck”, “fake chicken”, etc. The purpose of Otarian is not to help us fill the “meat void”, it is to create balanced, ethically responsible meals that one can feel proud of consuming.
- I ordered a vegan burger with guacamole (delicious, by the way – it came with a whole wheat bun, cilantro chutney as well)…and i was handed one napkin. I WAS THRILLED! I hate the waste in places like Chipotle where people grab 500 napkins and walk out the door. Ridiculous! Btw, i highly recommend you try Otarion. My burger was really fresh and i felt really good about it.
- They are all about promoting KNOWLEDGE. Throughout my meal, different quotes popped up on the TV screen in the middle of the restaurant and there were small videos playing to educate consumers that walked in. So smart and a great idea.
- This restaurant goes way beyond promoting vegetarianism as a way of life. It goes into much more serious environmental issues such as deforestation, livestock manure, economic change, our carbon footprints, water conservation, recycling, restaurant design, and energy efficiency. I was really impressed with the website and the food didn’t disappoint.
- Last but not least, although they were a vegetarian restaurant and not vegan, they addressed the issues surrounding the milk industry! I am happy to see a conscious restaurant chain in today’s world and i really hope they expand.