When asked why I'm a vegetarian, my answer is, "because of the dolphins." Well, that used to be my answer anyway, back in the early days before I realized that the actual reason most people asked me why I was a vegetarian, was not because they were actually interested or curious, it was because they wanted to tell me why they ate meat. No, but really, it's because of the dolphins! :)

 

In the summer of 1991 I had gotten a job at Sea World in San Antonio, TX., at Ye Old Woodcutters (cutting names out of blocks of wood with a scroll saw lol.) Everyday I had to pass the dolphins on my way to and from my booth. There was a lot of hubbub around that time concerning dolphins being killed by tuna fishing, so consequently, there were a lot of documentaries and such being made about dolphins. After watching a few of these and especially one with John C. Lilly talking about the dolphin brain and seemingly highly complex consciousness, I just had one of those moments. 

 

It was just one of those shifts in perspective, that sometimes seem so small in retrospect, but really make a big difference in the way you see the world. I suddenly saw the dolphins that I was passing at work everyday as conscious beings, looking at me every bit as much as I was looking at them. I'm not saying that I necessarily thought they  were self-aware in the same way humans are, or that they have some kind of symbolic way of thinking, I just became aware of there being, behind those eyes, an awareness that was perceiving the world from it's own center. In other words, they ceased being objects, and became their own subjects.

 

Well that almost immediately led to me completely reconsidering how I thought about all living things, and concluded that I had to become a vegetarian. What it boiled down to was this, however complex an animal's consciousness, it is still an individual, experiencing being. As such, doesn't it have the same right to live as I do? Or, to put it the opposite, doesn't it have the same right to kill and eat me as I have to kill and eat it? Well, the fact is, I don't really want to be killed and eaten, so I only feel that it's proper to extend the same courtesy. Also, just out of plain empathy, from then on I couldn't possibly kill and eat an animal unless it was truly a matter of survival. And if I couldn't kill it myself, then it would be hypocritical to let others do my killing for me. So I stopped eating meat. (I do confess that my impulse has always been towards veganism, but I've never been able to completely go vegan, though I do try.)

 

 

 

 

Views: 108

Tags: consciousness, dolphin, meat, vegan, vegetarian

Comment by Arcus on June 14, 2011 at 5:51pm

Personally, I find it to be a pretty piss poor excuse for being a vegetarian. On the other hand, I admire those who eat little or no meat.  So you are correct, though disagree with you on the underlying reasons behind the choice.

~Signed, 98%-Vegetarian. ;)

Comment by oneinfinity on June 14, 2011 at 6:27pm
empathetic compassion for another being is a "piss poor excuse for being a vegetarian"?
Comment by Arcus on June 14, 2011 at 6:33pm
Yes. Compassion has no relevance to feed stocks. For you to survive something will have to die, both from a biological and chemical perspective. Minimizing needless suffering is a noble goal, eliminating it is just folly (in the short term>250 years, my presumption).
Comment by Heather Spoonheim on June 14, 2011 at 8:06pm

From the perspective of practical nutrition, vegetarianism is a world apart from veganism.  As long as you still have dairy products in your diet there really isn't any need for meat - although dairy can bring with it a lot of saturated fat if you aren't careful.

 

If we all stopped eating meat, however, the poor domestic pig would go extinct.  They aren't good for cheese and/or milk and even though they are said to be very smart I've never met one with a degree in physics.  The same goes for many other domesticated animals - only the cow & goat would continue to thrive, as well as house pets.

 

Having worked for quite a few years in the food industry I know I would have to leave that industry if meat were cut out of the picture altogether.  By the way, are dolphins vegetarians?

Comment by Ron V on June 14, 2011 at 8:20pm

I have been almost a pescetarian for about 2 years now with occasional meat from "humane/free range" sources (Food, Inc did it for me).  I have been quite content and enjoy the many non-meat alternatives (Quorn, Boca, Morning Star, etc.)- many a "fake meat" casserole have  made that went unnoticed by those consuming (Quorn crumbles are my preference).  Fish (and occasionally alligator) is my main meat source (about once or twice a week).

Also, if you are concerned about Dolphins, have you seen The Cove?  I say boycott all aquariums where dolphins or whales are kept.

Comment by Jillian Mann on June 14, 2011 at 9:15pm

@ At Heather...who said it was such a bad thing if the pig actaully went extinct?  Same with the domestic cow as well...they were genetically engineered anyway....they didn't just evolve on their own.

 

I loved this story by the way....I am so fascinated when hearing about what put people on an all veg path.

Comment by Kirsten on June 14, 2011 at 9:17pm
I completely agree with your reasoning. Humans have the ability to step away from sentient food sources. We have the information we need to make the choice to do safely. And eventually we will need to own up to our treatment of the other inhabitants of this planet. They're sentient. Many feel pain and fear and attachment. Some use tools and show at least rudimentary languages. Some are starting to mourn their dead in an observable way.

Progress is being made in some small areas at least. Back in the Bay Area (California, near AF) free range farms who treated their animals well were actively sought after in the market. Fish from renewable sources (who could guarantee dolphin and other marine specie safety) were prized. People think more about the horrible conditions of the meat and dairy market at the least. Small steps.

Food, especially vegetarianism, is another emotional-button-presser though, and getting dialog started is pretty hard with the backlash that can come from even the most rational people. And there are still plenty of people who see life beyond humans as nothing more than one more resource for us to use. Seems like short term thinking to me.
Comment by Jessica Gibson on June 14, 2011 at 11:01pm
Meat is about the only thing I eat. I guess I just think that things we can kill should be eaten. It's THE CIIIIRCLE OF LIIIIIIIIIIIIFE-- but the fact that humans can eat all they want isn't too good, because that causes overpopulation for us. Overpopulation sucks.
Comment by oneinfinity on June 15, 2011 at 12:10am

I should have titled this, "Why I became a Vegetarian," since this is a story of 20 years ago. An entertaining addendum to the story is that within a week or so of reaching this conclusion I also decided that I could no longer work at Sea World. So to put in my 2 weeks notice I wrote a letter of resignation to Ye Old Woodcutter (yes, I know, it's a touch absurd, but life is a comedy right?) I don't remember now what the details were that I wrote in the letter, but it was something along the lines of what I said above, about realizing that dolphins were conscious beings and such, and that I couldn't work in a place that was exploiting animals for entertainment, etc. Or something along those lines.

 

Anyway, my manager at Ye Old Woodcutter (an ex-marine named Moses of all things), took my letter to the main office to fax it to wherever the corporate office of Ye Old Woodcutter is, and he returned about 20 mins later looking a little wild-eyed and nervous. He was like, "Man, did you really have to write all that stuff?" So, it turns out that in the office the person that faxed the letter read it first and freaked out and asked Moses, "Is this person still on the property!?" About 5 mins after Moses had come back a security guard arrived at our booth to escort me out of the park, and that was that.

Comment by Greg Gorey on June 15, 2011 at 12:44am

Neil, when is not supporting the mass killing of millions of beings who can feel substantial levels of pain not rational? I don't care about killing things if they can not substantially suffer.

Also, eating red meat is linked to cancer and cardiovascular disease (at least according to the American Institute for Cancer Research, the National Cancer Institute, and the World Cancer Research Fund).

 

A) is just a grotesque naturalistic fallacy and I am not sure what "IF you believe in and know much about evolution, then you know there are many millions of life forms and none of them are here for any other reason than blind luck" has to do with anything other than being completely irrelevant. 

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