Has Anything Ever Made You Consider Going Vegetarian?

I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve thought about giving up meat.

In fact, since the situation I’ll mention below, I’ve already eaten bacon, octopus, bison, chicken, fish, and steak. I very much like the way meat tastes, and I like the feel of protein surging through my veins.

But here’s what happened: I watched a new movie on Netflix called Okja, and it made me feel bad about eating meat. I’ve been thinking about it ever since (sometimes while actively eating meat).

In the first few minutes of Okja, we (and the members of the press in the movie) are told that a new type of animal has been created, a “super pig.” It’s the future of meat, basically.

This seems like a pretty good idea until 10 minutes into the movie, when we learn that the titular super pig, Okja, is somewhat intelligent and empathetic. It’s both in her actions and in her eyes.

It was really the eyes that got me. My cats have those eyes. Yes, they move frenetically when there’s a laser pointed at the floor, but they also have innate intelligence behind them.

If Okja were real, I would not eat her. She’s too intelligent. I would wager that many carnivores draw the line the same way. We’ll eat a cow, but a dog? No way. We’ll eat tuna but not a dolphin. We’ll eat pigs but not monkeys.

I tried to find a comprehensive list of animal intelligence, and it seems that various studies show different results. The chart here is just one example. This is just the top of the chart, and I’ve eaten from two categories on it in the last few days (octopus and birds [chicken]). Look how close the octopus is to birds! And pigs aren’t on the chart, but I’ve always heard they’re pretty smart.

Sigh…I don’t know where this leaves me. A long time ago I pledged to only buy organic, free-range meat at the grocery store, and I mostly succeed in that. But no matter how the animals are treated, I’m still condoning the killing of intelligent life for my benefit. Is that okay? How do you reconcile this?

16 Responses to “Has Anything Ever Made You Consider Going Vegetarian?”

  1. Kat Harmon says:

    I am celebrating my 20th anniversary of being vegan in February 2018. I have had many of these same conversations thinking about meat. I love not eating meat and I am glad I live in a time and place where I have that choice. It is a great choice environmentally, it is good for your health. Thinking about meat fundamentally as animal flesh, I don’t understand the vast number of people that can consume it. Truth is I couldn’t kill a chicken to eat it, so I won’t have someone else kill for me. I get my protein rush from beans and quinoa, good stuff…

    Gamers are thinkers, so it makes sense that we would consider these deeper topics to find our own strategy for how to approach all sorts of topics in our lives.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Kat: Thanks for sharing your experience! It’s interesting to hear your perspective about how one of the ways you draw the line is whether or not you could kill it. Would you eat insects? I have a few blog posts about that (I’ve eaten protein bars and chips made of crickets).

  2. Stephen says:

    I was vegetarian for about 8 years, and probably still would be except my husband has sufficient sensory processing issues involving food to vastly limit what food he can eat, and is sufficiently borderline on eating disorders that me eating significantly different foods to him would be dangerous.

  3. I was a full vegetarian for about 25 years and started for exactly this reason. (Most directly, the Smiths song Meat is Murder.)

    About 5 years ago I had a bunch of health problems that resulted in no soy for me. It was really hard, and I started eating fish again. When I travel, I move up the list to poultry for convenience. Kit’s test is a good one: I could kill a sardine without thinking about it. I think I could kill a chicken, but I’d have to draw on some willpower. I couldn’t kill a pig.

    It’s also worth noting that dairy pretty much involes killing calves…which my meat-eating husband enjoyed pointing out to me a LOT. (In his mind, you should be consistent on beef and dairy.) So dairy now is more a treat than a staple for me, and comes with a side dose of guilt.

  4. Wendy says:

    Pigs are as intelligent as a 3 year human. I stopped eating meat when I came eye to eye with a pig in a truck on its way to the slaughterhouse. I had a boss who had worked there and told me how they were killed. Knowing this sweet creature was about to have that happen to them, I lost it and haven’t eaten meat since. I’m working hard on eliminating the rest of animal products from my diet.

  5. Todd Johnston says:

    Hey Jamey, congrats on the Dice Tower Awards! Don’t watch forks over knives or it may turn you to the dark side ?

  6. […] Has Anything Ever Made You Consider Going Vegetarian? […]

  7. Bob Tosa says:

    I thought about giving up meat too. Is it ok to kill for our benefit? Is it ok not to? Here is my story:
    I love animals. I love them so much that I even like spiders.. those disgusting big, orb-weaving, male eating females. I look into those 8 eyes and I try and imagine what would it be like to be that spider, to know how to weave that perfect web, to feel the rush of killing your multiple partners. Fascinating, but they breed and if I don’t kill a couple, if I don’t remove and destroy their webs, If I don’t reclaim my territory they will creep into my house and I’ll find them by my side as I wake up. That happened to me recently. Not a good look.
    What I’m saying is animals wouldn’t think twice about killing us, crawling and pooping all over us.
    Kenny Rogers said it best
    You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, Know when to walk away and know when to run.

    Don’t get sick by not getting enough protein, calcium, vitamin B12,D… – that’s what I’m saying.

    Check out all of these species that have died out
    there is a good board game somewhere in there
    Sometime it wasn’t even because of us! Big success!

  8. Joe smith says:

    Read… I Am a Strange Loop… by Douglas Hofstadter. You will understand why you feel the way you do. You may feel even more compelled to become vegetarian, or perhaps not. Unfortunately,you may feel compelled to drop out of the human race entirely and join the “animal race”. A human lives roughly a hundred years or less. If you are thirty years old, you have about 365 times 70 days to do that. 25550 days times 24 hours 61320. You have about 61000 hours to decide whether or not you can be a meal for our animal brothers, or just be wasted in the ground or crematorium. Yes, the eyes are bad enough. And i AM in one hundred percent agreement with what you said and thought. But when you take it one step further, and switch the tables completely it tends to push the mind over the cusp. Much in the same way that closing the schools for (supposedly) two weeks pushed the society of paranoid hypochondriac leaderless sheep, called Americans over the cusp for Covid 19. Translation: Mass panic. And i do live in America. But it has become harder every year for me to proudly call myself an American. And now enough time has passed since WWII that our heroes and true leaders have passed away. Its not about… America against Russia. America against Russia. Africa against North Korea. Its not about that. A herd of bison roaming in Africa has better trusted leadership than America does at the moment. So… start that clock ticking. Look into the eyes of puppy dogs and bunnies and horses and even people of different races. Look for the “love” in their eyes. Dont be afraid to shed a teardrop. Its not a sign of weakness. Its a sign of love.

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