This weekend I read an article in the NY Times entitled A Vegetarian Reporter Explores a Hunting Dilemma. In order to get the story, the reporter went along on the hunt, but didn’t reveal that he was a vegetarian.

Which means, of course, that in order to blend in, he needed to eat meat while on the hunt. To help make sense of this, the reporter defines “vegetarian” as follows:

“I’ve been a vegetarian since college in what started as an experiment in healthier eating and morphed into concerns about the environmental impacts of a non-plant-based diet and a vague discomfort with killing animals. Mostly, this dietary habit stuck though I never lost my taste for meat; I succumb to the occasional pork chop and sometimes steal nibbles from my son’s morning bacon.”

To me this is a very interesting definition of the word “vegetarian”. It raises all sorts of fascinating questions.

For example, if you usually don’t eat people, but do indulge in the occasional meal of human flesh (say, in response to social pressure within your local cannibal community), can you legitimately claim that you are not a cannibal? According to this NY Times article, I think the answer would be yes.

Similarly, if you generally prefer to have sexual relations with adults, but do, when no grownups are available, indulge in the occasional act of fornication with small children, can you legitimately claim that you are not a pedophile? Again, according to the NY Times, the answer would be yes.

Who would have guessed that you could learn such fascinating and surprising things from the Newspaper of Record?

4 thoughts on “Eatymology”

  1. Although I’m sure your goad was to be provocative and playful with this line of thinking, taking it seriously for a minute shows one of the problems with a strict vision of vegetarianism. (For what it’s worth, I’m closer to an omnivore myself.)

    As Jonathan Safran Foer points out in the book Eating Animals, many people have given up a diet that is more moral, healthy, and eco-friendly for reasons like giving into temptation one time at an airport, and then feeling like the fundamentalist definition of vegetarianism wouldn’t allow for that so they quit.

    Foer suggests that while he couldn’t get 2/3rds of people to stop eating meat, he could feasibly be able to get them to eat 2/3rds less meat as a whole, by restricting their meat consumption to once a day. Or better yet, just to grandma’s chicken soup and other culturally meaningful occasions. He’s such a wonderfully balanced and subtle and forgiving kind of thinker! Well worth a read, and perhaps even better to get to see him speak.

  2. Yes, I was trying to be playful. I hope that came across!

    I think it’s wonderful that people are trying to eat less meat. I was just saying that as great as that practice is, it’s not accurately described by the word “vegetarian”.

  3. I think that is why the guardian is pushing the term ‘Flexitarian’ so much.

    Personally I hate the term, but it does describe those of us who make an effort to eat less animal products without complete exclusion.

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