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I’m a vegetarian if I say I am.

Posted by melagee on May 11, 2009

I have been a vegetarian for over a year so far, but the fact of the matter is that I will occasionally eat meat if it is certified organic.  This doesn’t happen very often because I’m conscious of the slippery slope, but every now and then I treat myself.  My reasoning is that I became a vegetarian less because I was upset that animals were killed, and more because I was upset over the way animals were treated before they were killed.  Meat that is certified organic was checked by the third-party certifying body that ensures that the animal meets certain criteria, among them that they be treated in humane ways.  For example, certified organic eggs or chicken comes from chickens that are given ample room to maneuver and access to the outdoors.  They’re not packed into tiny crates where they don’t have room to move and beaks need to be chopped so they don’t peck at each other too much.

In spite of the fact that I, upon occasion, eat meat, I still consider myself a vegetarian.  I don’t wear leather or suede, I don’t eat jello-o or marshmallows because of the gelatin, and I don’t eat that cheese that has rennet in it.  There are people, however, who feel that I’m not a “real” vegetarian, and think it’s appropriate to tell me so.  Repeatedly.

While I can respect that fact that different people will define vegetarianism differently, what I cannot respect is the conceit that allows someone to think that they have more of a right to define me than I do.  If I say that I am a vegetarian, that label might not mean the same thing as when other people use it on themselves.  The same is also true for any label I apply to myself.  Can I say I’m “really” a feminist if I continue to date men?  Some feminists would say no.  Can I say I’m “really” a gamer if I don’t like first person shooters?  Some video game nerds would scoff amongst themselves.  But I feel like a feminist and a gamer and a vegetarian.  I possess the core qualities that I believe those labels embody, and I feel that I belong to the subcultures associated with those labels.

As long as there are multiple definitions about exactly what qualities certain labels entail, I do not believe that anyone has the right to tell me how I can choose to identify myself.  To state otherwise implies that you know me better than I know myself, and exposes your ignorance in assuming that labels are simply matters of black and white.  Moreover, it’s just rude.


2 Responses to “I’m a vegetarian if I say I am.”

  1. LOL said

    If you take a label with a well-defined meaning like vegetarianism, then use it differently from the majority, don’t be surprised if you get pushback.

  2. Ed said

    I could label myself black. I know my family history going back more than 5 generations and it’s all white — but according to you I can label myself black.

    Doesn’t make it true. And I’m sure some people would take offense to me walking around referring to myself as black.

    You eat organic meat — fine, then tell people “Oh, I only eat organic meat.” That would be true. Saying you’re vegetarian? Not true.

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