First, the preface, which is probably pretty obvious if you're a long time Blonde Justice reader: I eat meat. Plenty of it. And I enjoy it.
I think that I tried a little stint as a vegetarian, maybe in junior high, I'm not too sure why. My first guess is that my friends were doing it, but I can't really remember if that was true. Anyway, it lasted maybe a month, at the most. I remember the night it ended: I went out for Chinese food with my parents - I can remember which restaurant, what booth we sat in - and I ordered my favorite, lemon chicken. Before the waitress could even walk away, my father asked me, "I guess you're not a vegetarian anymore?" Um, no, I guess not.
In a way, I thin I've always kind of associated being a vegetarian with this kind of junior high phase. And obviously, it isn't for everyone, but it was for me, and many of my friends. So was writing really terrible poetry. And, so, just to admit my biases, I think that for me, when someone tells me they're a vegetarian, I have just a quick passing thought of, "What are we, in junior high?"
Ok, so how did this question of vegetarians and hypocrites arise? Last weekend, a friend of mine had a little dinner party. One of the guests was a vegetarian (actually, I think he's vegan, but whatever). No, he was not in junior high, he was a grown man. This vegetarian also happened to be, under any medical definition, morbidly obese. After dinner, as we were cleaning up, the host remarked to me, "I didn't realize until it was too late, but I used chicken stock when I was cooking. I guess it doesn't matter. I don't know how he can say he's a vegetarian and be that overweight."
To tackle the issue of whether vegetarians are hypocrites, I think we first need to grasp why a particular person is a vegetarian. A few reasons that come to mind, although I'm sure that there are many more, are:
- The most common, the "I love animals" reason.
- Health reasons. These vegetarians believe that there are health benefits to avoiding meats or certain meats.
- Environmental reasons. These vegetarians believe that land could provide for more people if it was growing vegetables or grains for human consumption rather than being used for animal grazing. Also maybe because cattle let off greenhouse gases too, I think.
Now, let's say you see a vegetarian wearing a leather jacket. Is he a hypocrite? It really depends on what his reason is. If he's an "I love animals" vegetarian, than yes, he's either a hypocrite or sorely misinformed about where leather comes from. But if he's a "health reasons" vegetarian, there is probably no conflict.
I'd need to do more research to decide whether an "environmental" vegetarian can or should wear leather - I would assume grazing cattle that have a future in leather are just as bad for the environment, but I guess I could see the flip side - Native Americans used all part of the animal - ate the meat, used the hides - and they are/were better for the environment than we are. But the truth is, the modern slaughter houses probably aren't providing hides to the tanner, unless maybe the "environmental" vegetarian lives on some kind of eco-commune, and they raised an animal in some eco-friendly way, and killed the animal for the sake of the group, but he didn't eat it (because he's an "environmental" vegetarian), but he got the jacket. But by that description he could have eaten this animal too, so this isn't making any sense, but whatever, now you see how my imagination works.
Ok, next up, a vegetarian who doesn't recycle. Is this hypocritical? Again, we go to the reason. If he is a vegetarian because he's worried about his cholesterol or something, who cares if he doesn't recycle. If he's an "I love animals," he probably should recycle because what's good for the earth is good for all animals, but I can see how that is a little more remote possibly. But if he's an "environmental" vegetarian, sure, he's a hypocrite.
Ok, finally, is an extremely overweight vegetarian a hypocrite? Sure, if he's claiming that he gave up meat to improve his health but his whole diet consists of pizza and cake, he's either a hypocrite or pretty uninformed in the ways of healthy eating. And we're not even talking about pizza with whole-wheat dough. But I think you can be an "I love animals" vegetarian or an "environmental" vegetarian, and acting strictly within those themes, still be plenty fat.
So, no, I don't think an overweight vegetarian is necessarily a hypocrite, but he might be one. It might not hurt to take a minute to ask your vegetarian house guest why he is a vegetarian, unless you feel like you would just be indulging his junior high attention-seeking-behavior.