Meathooked by Marta Zaraska

Meathooked by Marta Zaraska

Author:Marta Zaraska
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Basic Books
Published: 2015-10-22T20:55:44+00:00

9

Why Giving Up Meat May Be Harder for Some of Us

The air in Boston’s Reggie Lewis Athletic Center is full of the aroma of meat. “Smells pretty good in here,” says a woman dressed in a floor-length, flowery skirt, as she enters an ultracrowded hall. Hundreds of people are pressed close together, slowly pushing toward the myriad stands ahead. Something delicious is being cooked inside, that’s for sure. As we approach, the scent grows stronger, and I can make out sausages, crispy bacon, juicy burgers, all being cooked fresh.

Yet there is no meat in sight.

The event to which the crowds have swarmed is the annual Boston Vegetarian Food Festival. Everything edible here is made of plants—not even milk or eggs are allowed to cross the threshold. The hall is, of course, packed with vegans and vegetarians. And yet the woman in the hippie-like flowery skirt, perhaps more obviously identifiable as a vegetarian, is an exception. You would never have guessed by looking at most of the people at the center that they are plant eaters attending a vegetarian festival. Some are young, some are old; some are thin, some are fat. Some wear sweatpants, and others wear suede suit jackets with elbow patches.

Surveys have shown that many people think vegetarians are somehow different from the rest of society. To the average American, the folks who turn down meat are pale, pacifist, hypochondriacal, foreign-car-driving liberals. Thus the question becomes: Who are modern vegetarians? Are they born to be plant eaters? Is there something in their genes or personality that makes it easier for them to stop eating meat? Can you tell someone is a vegetarian by scanning his or her brain? And why on Earth do some of them eat fake meat “sausages” and “burgers” and no-fish “tunas”? Are they fooling themselves, secretly craving meat after all?

An American comedian, David Brenner, once said that “a vegetarian is a person who won’t eat anything that can have children.” If only it were so simple. There is no clear-cut definition of a vegetarian on which everyone agrees. Even vegetarians disagree about what constitutes a vegetarian diet. Pescaterians eat no meat but do allow for fish. Others won’t eat fish but think that devouring a plate of mussels is perfectly OK. To add to the confusion, there are pesco pollo vegetarians who avoid red meat but eat chicken and fish, flexitarians who generally avoid meat but still eat it on occasion, and the VB6 folks—who eat only vegan before 6 p.m. but after that hour may dig into steaks. Meanwhile, orthodox vegans won’t even touch honey because it comes from the exploitation of bees.

No wonder it’s hard to tell how many vegetarians are truly out there. Recent estimates show that 3 to 5 percent of Americans consider themselves vegetarian, just like 4 to 8 percent of Canadians, 3 percent of Australians, 2 to 5 percent of British, and a mere 0.3 percent of Portuguese, who appear to be the most meathooked of Western nations.



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