In recent decades I’ve watched an odd trend. More and more people are proclaiming themselves to be vegetarians. In just my grandmother’s day such a choice was unheard of. She would have told you that, “God put all the plants and animals on Earth for us to eat.” She would then have looked at you like you were something she scrapped off her shoe.
Yet, today we have thousands of people proclaiming it’s wrong to eat meat.
When it comes to food there are three types of mammals;
- herbivores, those who eat plants
- carnivores, those who eat meat and
- omnivores, those who eat both
Biologically humans are omnivores. Our teeth are a very good example of this. We posses sharp but not overly large canines for tearing meat coupled with a series of flatter molars perfect for chewing plants. Dogs for instance who are carnivores posses large canines and more rigid molars designed solely for tearing and chewing meat. A cow, however, possesses a series of flat teeth and molars perfect to chew mouthfuls of plants. The method of looking at teeth as an indicator of an animal’s natural diet is so useful that scientists have been using it for decades to determine what kind of skeleton they’re looking at.
So if we know that humans are by nature omnivores and need both meat and vegetables to survive why abstain from one or the other? That’s what’s bugged me for years. As I’ve mentioned previously psychology is a hobby of mine. If biology has failed to provide me with a suitable answer then it only made sense to turn to psychology.
This study is informal and based off a theory, please draw your own conclusions.
Here’s what I’ve found over the years. As with many things in life there are different motivators for different people. I’ve taken a habit of questioning people who tell me they’re vegetarians, or are thinking of becoming vegetarians. An extremely small handful of them offered me a valid medical reason. One lady had developed an inability to digest beef. Instead of her doctor telling her to abstain from all meat she was told to avoid only beef.
For some they offered me vegetarianism as a diet. Those who eat solely plants tend to be smaller. My son is an example of that. While he doesn’t ‘like’ most meat he does eat it. He tends to crave fruits and vegetables which burn quickly and require him to eat more frequently. While he’s healthy he’s 9yrs old and only weighs 52lbs. He has however always had problems with gaining weight. As a temporary means abstaining from meat isn’t a bad idea in an attempt to control your weight. But talk to your doctor first. No doctor I’ve every known or worked with including nutritionists have ever suggested to a healthy person to become vegetarian permanently though they will work with you if that’s your choice.
The next group of people I’ve discovered treat it as a fad. I get a variety of responses along the lines of; ‘it’s the right thing to do’, shrugging (which leads me to believe they don’t have a valid reason but feel social pressure to do it), and pointing to prominent celebs and sports stars. This grouping is mildly concerning. This tends to be the group of people who play follow-the-leader. They’re going to do what others do and instead of questioning it they’re just going to follow along. This also indicates a sense of low self-esteem and an attempt to fit in. Teens are particularly prone to this behavior, especially girls. If your teen does tell you they want to become a vegetarian make sure you take them to a doctor so that you can confirm they’re in good enough health for such a diet and assist them in eating healthily.
The last group I’ve discovered is the most concerning. I’ve only encountered this group a handful of times. They’re the diehard ‘eating animals is murder’ people. To be perfectly honest the rare times I’ve encountered this group I’ve stopped my questions because the individual made me uncomfortable. I was lectured about how animals feel, how it’s murder, the methods used to kill them, ect. We’ve all seen it on t.v. I’m sure.
While I do not contest anyone’s right to be a vegetarian and I agree that some of the methods used by mass producers to slaughter animals is just disturbing, so is the unholy gleam in these peoples eyes. I’ve spent the last six months thinking about the arguments made to me and their behavior. Part of psychology isn’t just looking at what is said but at behavior as well. What is not said can also be of vital importance.
The last time I spoke to someone like this I toughed it out and did a little extra digging swinging the topic away from food and toward childhood. It was partially an attempt to distract them from frothing at the mouth but I discovered something else instead. This particular individual had an unhappy childhood. Not a lot was said and I don’t suspect abuse but there seemed to be a feeling of not being in control.
I’ve spent the last six months or so going over what was said and what wasn’t. This wasn’t a case of learned behavior, neither parent was a vegetarian. There had been a lot of mentioning of eating meat as ‘unethical’, ‘unfair’, ‘murder’, and other harsh terms thrown in. In my experience such harsh terms tend to cover deep feelings; and rarely toward the subject-matter.
As sometimes happens when someone experiences a situation where they feel that they have little control they seek control in a different aspect of their life. I’ve seen this repeatedly displayed in military children who will only eat certain foods in an attempt at feeling control over their own life. What I’ve presumed to have happen is that the vegetarian in this case has personified their feelings onto animals. They can’t go back in time and save themselves from whatever circumstance they were in but they can save the ‘defenseless’ animal from ‘being slaughtered’.
The reason this is concerning is because there is an unresolved issue that needs to be dealt with. When dealing with unresolved issues they tend to spill over into everyday life until some form of closure is achieved. On occasion they end up turning people into fanatics that try to convince others they’re murders for eating something that they’re supposed to. Fanatics are always to be treated carefully due to the level of violence they can achieve. It only takes one charismatic fanatic to cause a riot. It’s fanatics that condemn strangers and burn buildings.
If you tell me the reason you’re choosing to go against your very nature is a religious one I’ll applaud you for sticking to your beliefs. If you tell me it’s a medical choice I’ll sympathize. If you tell me it’s because it’s popular I’ll pity you. If you tell me it’s because it’s evil, I’ll fear you.