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Merriam Webster’s definition of a “Vegetarian” is:
1: A person who does not eat meat: Someone whose diet consists wholly of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and sometimes eggs or dairy products,
2: An herbivore.
I fit those two descriptions. And yet, I’m not a Vegetarian.
Why don’t I eat meat?
There are a number of reasons, almost all of them related to the people I hold most dear:
- My daughter, Ali, became a vegetarian when she was eight years old and a vegan at 16. She worked with PETA and now works with Farm Sanctuary. Ali is firmly committed to respecting animals and is a very knowledgeable and convincing voice for animal rights.
- My son, Danny, is very concerned about climate change and the future of our planet. He works to promote clean energy and he has shown me how many of the practices of the agricultural industrial complex significantly damage the environment.
- My wife, Gloria, is a nurse practitioner who specializes in family health and elder care. She is convinced that a diet filled with animal fats and proteins contributes to many of our societal health woes. What’s more, Gloria is a devoted animal lover and can’t stomach the idea of killing animals for food.
- My mother was always socially conscious and nutritionally minded. I grew up in a household with free of soda and most few prepared foods, with more grains and vegetables than meats, and a family consciousness of healthy eating. While I wasn’t raised vegetarian, those habits are still hard to break.
So, I don’t eat meat and I hardly ever consume dairy. But I’m still not a Vegetarian. And even though I cheat every now and again, that’s not why I eschew the term. Instead, I resist the term Vegetarian for one reason: Baggage.
Simply put, I don’t want to be saddled with the baggage that comes with the descriptor Vegetarian. Because even though the dictionary definition accurately defines both the word and my practices, that definition is not necessarily how we use the word Vegetarian in everyday language.
For example, all of us in business know that sales is one of the most important parts of a successful enterprise. And we all know that great salespeople are the keys to that success. But is “oh he’s such a salesman…” a compliment that means someone’s really good at sales, or a pejorative that suggests he’s pushy and untrustworthy?
Likewise, even though the definition of the word Vegetarian means someone who doesn’t eat meat, we know that its common use implies other traits that may or may not be accurate.
Or, as I said before, Baggage.
I don’t want the fact that I don’t eat meat to suggest other unrelated things about me anymore than I want the clothes I wear, my age, the way I speak, or even my ethnicity to invite people to lump me into their pre-conceived silos.
Of course, I know I benefit from a combination of ethnic and physical privileges that allow me to avoid the unfair ways people could judge me. While at the same time I benefit from similar privileges that enhance the way people see me and treat me.
How do I know that? I’ve never been followed by a salesperson unless they thought they were going to earn a big commission from my potential purchase. I’ve never felt uncomfortable when a policeman pulled me over, other than worrying about getting a ticket and seeing my insurance rates soar. And I’ve never been told I don’t belong here – whether “here” refers to the country or the boardroom – because of how I appear or sound. Instead, my eyes have been opened to all the ways I’ve benefitted by the way I look and speak and how unfair it is for others who don’t benefit from the very same privileges I do.
So, my disdain for the using the word Vegetarian stems from my desire not to add additional irrelevant clues to others’ understanding of who I am or what I believe in.
I’m not a Vegetarian. I just choose not to eat meat.
Seems to me that a husband/father/son making a change in his eating habits in order to honor the values of his loved ones is one of the most beautiful things I can even imagine. I realize that wasn’t the actual point of the article, however…WOW. Just WOW! Thank you, Bruce!
You just gave me a whole new way of looking at it, and valuing it Bob. Thank you!!
Do’s and Don’ts are less influential than one’s beliefs. Behavior is a function of perceptions. Perceptions are beliefs. When perceptions change about what is important, behavior changes. Do’s and Don’t are more superficial and not meaningful linked to spontaneous, authentic behavior.
As we say in the marketing business Bob: “Perception IS Reality.”
Thanks for participating in the discussion.
Dude, when did you go so woke with the all the virtue signaling?
This column was a complete waste of time.
Thanks for weighing in Keith. I have another way of looking at it:
My meta-point was that most classifications and adjectives come with baggage that cause people to make judgements that may or may not be correct. Clearly the words I used did exactly that to you, just like the terms you chose (“woke”, “virtue signaling”, even starting your comments by addressing me as “dude”) do the same thing.
My bigger point is that when you’re creating brands for your business or for yourself, it’s critical to understand how these terms affect others’ opinions.
Clearly the column wasn’t “a complete waste of time” because it got you to respond. I accept that you disagree with my opinion, but that doesn’t diminish the value of what I wrote anymore than my disagreement with what you wrote diminishes the value of what you had to say.
Thanks for adding to the discussion.
I agree with the substance of your self non-description.
I don’t eat meat either. And I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan. I’m many things more.
If only there were people who were vegan/vegetarian who were willing to claim the terms, challenge the stereotypes, and help lighten the load of that baggage. Oh well.
Perhaps, Kezia, if the job of choosing not to eat meat requires an evangelical stance. In my case, my decision not to kill animals for food is my decision alone. What other people decide to do is up to them. I’m no more interested in convincing them to do what I do than I am to have them try to convince me of their decisions.
Thanks for reading and writing. I appreciate your involvement.