Someone Else’s Shoes

Ali Sherbach '06

I’ve always been a meat-and-potatoes kind of girl. You know, the kind who waged nightly wars at the dinner table, refusing to eat the horrid vegetable sitting on her plate. But as the years passed, my mother eventually gave up on me and I lived a rather content and almost completely vegetable-free life. My bliss was halted, however, when just a few weeks ago I was forced to watch a fairly disturbing video in my Environmental Ethics class. “Meet your Meat” exposed me to scenes of the violence and torture inflicted upon animals raised for the purposes of human consumption.

As feelings of nausea crept over me, I had a change of heart. “I’m a vegetarian now,” I informed my mother immediately following the class. She, of course, broke into laughter and offered me zero support in my pursuit of a higher moral existence. Even my friends abandoned me. But I was determined to overcome the leafy green prejudice long anchored in my heart; I was determined to become a vegetarian.

Fast forward to seven days later and you’ll find me swallowing a bite of succulent chicken along with my morals. So what led to my moral failure? Some Philosophers might call it the “slippery slope” argument, or the idea that one action creates a chain reaction of events leading to an undesirable end. Take milk, for example. It seems like a safe thing to drink. But consider that milk comes from cows, pregnant cows to be precise. Pregnant cows give birth to calves, and calves might just be the most horribly abused animal in the entire factory farm industry. Okay, no more milk, which also meant no more dairy products. Period.

Then there were the chickens. Chickens produce eggs. If I wasn’t going to eat chickens, then I certainly couldn’t eat the eggs that they produced. This meant I couldn’t eat anything that had eggs in it. Period. I slowly saw my food options dwindling and, unfortunately for the animal kingdom, Ali does not translate to Gandhi. My hunger strike went unnoticed by the masses.

The little attention I did receive, however, was of a purely negative sort. “Friends don’t let friends become vegetarians” became the new mantra floating around my apartment. I was shocked that my friends would be so unsupportive, but I was even more shocked when one of them sent me to to read “For Every Animal You Don’t Eat I’m Going to Eat Three”. The title is self-explanatory. This went beyond ignoring, and I soon realized it was beyond me to compete. In the end, I gave back in to the dark side of the dinner table.

Looking back, I realize my mistake was in making it a competition, making it all about winning. Because the truth is, you can’t win when you partake in something like this, at least not on the scale we might be used to. What that doesn’t mean is that it’s not worth doing. Jason Kawall, Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religion as well as a nine-year vegetarian veteran, offered me some important advice.

“I don’t think we have to be perfect here” he suggests, “but that said I don’t think we can’t take steps”. Kawall further points out that saying “I can’t save every starving person in the world, therefore I’m not going to try save any” just doesn’t follow.

What does follow is my new and yes smaller commitment: cut meat out of my diet once a week and eventually build from there. I’m not trying to save the world anymore, just a few animals (and my peace of mind), one step at a time