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My girlfriend is a vegetarian, and we’ve been dating for a year now. I love her a lot, but she hates that I eat meat. Like most Americans, roughly 100% of the plates I put in front of me have a dead animal somewhere on them. Over the course of our relationship, my girl has pretty much convinced me it’s unhealthy, both for my body and the environment. The proof is pretty irrefutable, but I can’t picture cutting out meat completely, even if I’d like to. A life of not eating tacos, pepperoni pizzas, and cheese burgers is no life for me (yes, I’ve tried meat substitutes as alternatives, and I hate them). So my question is basic: how do I give up something I know is bad for me and my relationship if I love it so much?
– Meat Eater
Dear Meat Eater,
I don’t like people telling me what to do, but sometimes it’s good to hear people out, especially if they’re turning me on to ideas I haven’t fully contemplated before. For example, when I was 13, I started dating my first serious long-term girlfriend, and her family introduced me to all sorts of new experiences — everything from the music of George Clinton to the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. One day, her parents gave me a paperback copy of Dick Gregory’s Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat: Cookin’ With Mother Nature. The book was a revelation. It completely dazzled me as an amazing piece of writing from a unique man, and it was the first time I’d been presented with deeply coherent ethical and biological reasons for not eating animals.
I read the whole book in one day, and by the next morning, I had become a vegan. Dick Gregory’s book was the first time I really fathomed the idea that when I ate steak, I was eating cow’s body. And that a grilled chicken sandwich was bird’s flesh. And that bacon was pig’s meat. Even a glass of cow’s milk suddenly seemed completely bizarre and grotesque — why would I, a human, drink the mother’s milk of a totally different beast?