I decided to become a vegetarian in 2004 shortly after I started dating the wonderful person that I eventually married. As I look back on the decision at this point in my life, it is hard to say exactly what informed it. What I can honestly say as I write this, is that I do not recall at that time being indignant about the state of the meat industry. I do recall being willing to do anything to get closer to a woman that I felt myself falling in love with...and she was a vegetarian, so... it is safe to say that my decision was based in large part upon manipulation and desire. There you have it. I'm kind of a schmuck.
My vegetarian journey began in the early summer of 2004 when my girlfriend left Denver to live in Norfolk, VA for three months and work as a legal intern for PETA (that is a subject for a whole other blog). While she was gone, I decided that I would "practice" not eating meat just to see how I did. I guess I figured it was a good time to experiment and that I could do it without really putting any pressure on myself and without any cognizable goal. If she came back and I was a vegetarian, great. If not, so be it. The fact of the matter was that she never tried to force a change. I always appreciated that. I also always figured that was actually the best way to inspire change under the circumstances.
My carnivorous habits were well entrenched and had been cultivated and nurtured in a very "Beef, it's what's for dinner" sort of environment. I am originally from Texas. Some of my parents' closest friends were ranchers who raised and sold or slaughtered animals as a means of supporting their families. I am sure there were vegetarians around, but I either didn't know them or didn't care about such fringe-dwellers. I can't say that a meal without meat was an unthinkable premise, but I can say that the idea of all meals without meat was, most definitely, unthinkable in my family and among my friends...and still is (Hi family!).
As a child, I was an avid hunter with serviceable skills. In many of my fondest and most treasured memories of time spent with my dad, we are hunting together. I was introduced to the realities of hunting and fishing at an early age (killing/dressing/processing/eating) and grew up around and participating in those realities. I believe that my experiences as a hunter were built on a foundation that was ethical and humane almost without exception. While I may have struggled occasionally during specific instances with the idea of hunting and killing, I did not question its righteousness in general terms. On the most fundamental level, I still do not (that is probably also a topic for another time).
It is from this context that it should be clear that the thought of questioning the idea of eating meat honestly never occurred to me until I met my future wife. I loved eating meat. I can still remember what my family's home-cooked specialties (steak-fingers, chicken-fried steak, fresh fish, corned beef, etc. etc) tasted like and how it made me feel. I do not recall ever being concerned on any level with any of the myriad of issues (and I intend to discuss many of them in future posts) that I now count among the reasons that I have chosen to continue not to eat meat... And that have now caused this desire in me to go beyond even that.
In writing this, I am not by any stretch trying to cheapen or sully my childhood memories, or the image of my family, or the lifestyle that is still the norm for countless families that I still consider my closest friends. I am simply trying to provide a little perspective. I do not believe that my path to vegetarianism is completely unique or awe-inspiring. But I believe that it is a bit unusual. I guess what I am trying to say is that if I can do this, I feel pretty strongly that anyone can. Perhaps, unlike me, it could be a journey that begins for the right reasons.