"So, do you want a real burger or a veggie burger?"
It was Easter dinner* at my parents' house. My parents, knowing that I had been thinking of continuing my Lenten diet, had graciously purchased some veggie burgers. Now my mother was asking me the question: it was time to decide.
*Well, Easter lunch actually. And yes, the menu was burgers, fresh from the grill, with fancy side dishes and on fancy plates.
I looked over at the raw burgers, not yet put on the grill. I contemplated eating one and felt a slight queasiness in my stomach.
"I'll have a veggie burger, please."
* * *
The meal arrived and I was happily eating my veggie burger* and reflecting on whether my decision to have the veggie burger today was really the decision, if it meant that I had just decided to give up eating meat for good, and if so, if I was okay with that. Then my mother, who so far had said very little about the subject, declared:
*which, I have to say, wasn't very good--I think I'm not a fan of "fake meat" and would much rather have plain old "non-meat."
"I have to say, given your family history, this is probably a really smart thing for you to do."
My mind stopped for a second. Family history? What was she talking about? What did my family history have to do with the ethical ramifications of animal-eating?
My mind restarted and I instantly understood her meaning: heart disease. My family history includes a high rate of heart problems. The strange thing was, while I knew that I was technically "at risk" for heart disease due to genetic factors and that one's diet could play a major role in preventing heart disease, I'd somehow completely failed to make any connection between my Lenten discipline and the future health of my heart.
"Thanks," I said, as though this had actually been a factor in my going meatless.
Over the course of the meal I reflected on the disconnect between my reasons for abstaining from meat and what, apparently, were my mother's assumptions regarding my reasons. As I mentioned in my last post, I have felt healthier since giving up meat, but this honestly played no role in my initial decision-making. Should I set her straight? Tell her that actually this had nothing to do with my health, but that I just didn't want to eat all those defenseless animals?
Then again, maybe it should be about my health. Or at least, partially so. If abstaining from meat now can save me from a heart attack twenty years hence, that's a good reason too.
Earlier I had conceived of the dilemma of whether or not to eat meat as a choice between personal taste and enjoyment, and the rights of animals. Not possessing the knowledge of presicely what it means to be an animal, I haven't exactly been able to resolve this dilemma.
But if it's a choice between personal taste and enjoyment on one side, and the rights of animals and my individual health on the other, well, that's a clearer picture.
So. My Lenten discipline continues.
And you know, maybe it always has been about my health, whether I knew it or not. Maybe my questioning of the ethics of eating meat was a sort of divine providence, a spiritual push leading me to change my behavior in a way that, ultimately, would save me.
Regardless, I still don't know whether abstaining from meat is "right" or not.
It would appear, though, that it's right for me.