I am a vegetarian. No, it would be more accurate to say I am a pescetarian.
A pescetarian is a person who eats fish, but doesn't eat steak, chicken, pork or any other kind of meat - only fish and seafood, and of course, fruit and vegetables, nuts, legumes, grains, pasta and so on.
My wife is now a full-on vegan. No meat, seafood, eggs or dairy products. Despite unrelenting pressure when she was young, she has never eaten meat, simply because she could not handle it.
For many years, whenever she was served meat with her meals, she would dutifully cut it up, move it around the plate, eat everything else and leave neat little piles of meat scattered around, uneaten.
As a child, when her family had a German Shepherd, her task of pretending to eat meat was made easier by surreptitiously feeding the dog her meat under the dinner table.
As for me, I was always a meat eater until Brenda and I moved in together after our respective marriages broke up over 20 years ago. It seemed to me to be too much bother to cook different meals, Besides, I loved vegetables and fruit etc., so my conversion was relatively painless.
Having spent my formative years growing up in a small coastal town north of Sydney, vegies from my father’s large vegetable garden, regularly supplemented by local seafood were my favourite foods. Meat was okay, but I was never overly fond of it.
Brenda also ate seafood when we first met, but was rapidly losing her taste for it and after a few years it was off our menu at home. But that was okay, because whenever we dined out at restaurants, I would compensate by ordering seafood.
Now, I will get to the point.
Why is it some meat eaters are so offended when we tell them we do not eat meat?
Indeed, some people can get quite indignant and rude about it. Theirs is a watered down version of how some people might react if you told them you had leprosy or the bubonic plague!
I remember us being invited to a dinner party by acquaintances early in our relationship. We had told the hosts beforehand we both did not eat meat. And they served up filet mignon to all of their guests, including us!
When they noticed we had not eaten any of the meat, they were quite offended and we became the target of nearly everyone around the table who joined in the chorus of disapproval.
Even after we reminded our hosts that we told them beforehand we did not eat meat, they replied they thought we were not being serious, and besides, there is no harm in making one exception. They just did not get it!
On another occasion, we were dining out at a restaurant with a group of friends and we asked the waiter if the restaurant had vegetarian options. Well, one of the group really went to town on us and very publicly ordered a thick steak cooked very rare. He even made the point that he wanted to see the blood running out of it!
Okay, these were rather extreme reactions to the news that Brenda and I did not eat meat and those events occurred over 20 years ago. However, it is not unusual to get at least raised eyebrows, even now, whenever some people learn we are vegetarians. Their reaction can vary from surprise, to pity, to annoyance. Sometimes they try (without success) to get us to defend our radical position.
Of course this behaviour could be explained by the fact that many people react negatively to anyone they see as being different.
However, I have my own pet theory to explain the reactions and behaviour of these ultra-sensitive carnivores.
Could it be they are coming from GUILT? Perhaps guilt buried deep into their unconscious mind that causes them to take an offensive stance whenever in the presence of non-meat eaters?
Why guilt? Could it be because they realise there is more to the story about those neat, clinically packaged T-bones, chickens, lamb chops or sausages they purchase from supermarkets?
As a pescetarian, I have an awareness that whatever seafood I eat has had to suffer to satisfy my culinary taste.
Even vegetarian purists are not entirely off the hook in this regard, because a number of studies have shown that plants feel pain, and vegetables are picked and often eaten while still alive!
So, you minority of overly-sensitive meat eaters, do not try to project your conscious or unconscious guilt onto us.
Please get off our case and leave us vegetarians, vegans and pescetarians to deal with our own guilt.