The fact is, very few people are vegetarians; even most vegetarians eat meat. There have been several studies, including a very large one by the Department of Agriculture, where they asked people one day: Describe your diet. And 5 percent said they were vegetarians. Well, then they called the same people back a couple of days later and asked them about what they ate in the last 24 hours. And over 60 percent of these vegetarians had eaten meat. And so, the fact is, the campaign for moralized meat has been a failure. We actually kill three times as many animals for their flesh as we did when Peter Singer wrote “Animal Liberation” [in 1975]…I think the fact is that we’re natural meat-eaters. And a lot of my vegetarian friends don’t like that. But it’s our biology and our evolutionary heritage. It’s tough to fight that. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fight it. But most people lose that balance. And two-thirds of vegetarians eventually resume eating meat.
I don’t mean to be an etymological extremist here, but it occurs to me that if you eat meat, you are, by definition, not a vegetarian. It’s fine if you don’t eat red meat, or you just aim to reduce your overall meat consumption, but that just makes you a selective eater, not a vegetarian. And, no, by the way, fuck all this pesco/lacto/ovo-vegetarian bullshit. Again, if you’re a selective eater, just say so. Stop hyphenating about it. It doesn’t clarify anything.
I’ve been vegetarian for about sixteen years, and I’ve never been tempted to give it up, nor has it ever felt limiting to me (although I’ve long wanted to start taking actual cooking classes to learn how to broaden my admittedly limited repertoire). I think that may be due to the fact that I never really had any hope for the persuasiveness of the moral case (though I firmly accept it myself), so I didn’t fall prey to the disappointment so many new coverts feel when they realize that not everyone is going to be convinced by a pep talk and some pamphlets. People can rationalize damn near anything. If anything, it’s more likely to make an impression on people when they consider the environmental cost of First-Worlders using up such massive quantities of grain to raise livestock for our meat-at-every-meal habit, a luxury that the vast majority of the world can’t even begin to afford. Even that, I imagine, is likely to be a casualty of our inevitable decline in living standards over the next few decades. Just as we can’t continue to burn through natural resources at such a breakneck pace, neither will we be able to keep eating like kings.