Suck it, PETA.
Seriously. With the summer grilling season under way, I’ve happily been all about meat. There’s something so innate about chewing on a flawlessly sauced rib or a well-seasoned piece of chicken that’s been charred to perfection on the backyard grill. Gnawing a hunk of just about anything from the butcher is satisfying in a very caveman-like, Fred Flintstone kind of way (minus Pebbles’ cliché hair bone). Vegetarians really don’t know what they’re missing.
It was hard not to chuckle last week when the first lady of France, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (who is, admittedly, a bit laughable regardless), wrote a letter to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals righteously declaring that she does not “wear, buy or own fur or animal skin other than leather or skin of animals raised for feeding purposes.” (Really? Should we suppose she’ll ask the sales clerk at Louis Vuitton if the three or four crocodiles that gave their lives for the next purse she purchases were raised for feeding purposes? Will the clerk pretend to know the answer?)
And it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that PETA welcomed Bruni-Sarkozy with open arms, considering its biggest champion, Pamela Anderson, is chock full of more additives and preservatives than a bag of Funyuns. When an organization’s chief marketing strategy is splattering red paint on a fur coat (which seems as productive and sensible as an environmental group setting fire to a protected wilderness area) or picketing fast-food joints like KFC (from whom Pamela Anderson accepted money to appear on an Australian TV show), it’s hard to take them seriously.
I was a vegetarian all throughout college, although it’s only fair to fully disclose that it was easy to avoid meat while going through the requisite upper middle-class, suburban Deadhead hippie phase and everyone in the adjacent dorm suites had on speed dial a late-night veggie pizza, with subsequent leftovers readily available in their mini-refrigerators 24/7.
Shortly after graduation, I took the GREs and was so mentally and emotionally exhausted following the exam that my dad took me to Manero’s Restaurant Steakhouse in Greenwich, Conn. He knew I didn’t eat meat, I knew I didn’t eat meat, but he nevertheless ordered me a sirloin burger. Without hesitation I gobbled up every last ounce, and to this day, it was the single greatest meal of my life.
There were times after that I wished I had remained a vegetarian. Like when I was in Turkey with my friends Michele and Meltem and we had dinner with Meltem’s parents. Her dad insisted I eat the eyeballs of the fish that was being served because I was the guest of honor. He tried to assure me it was a delicacy at the same time I tried to assure him that me eating eyeballs would result in no uncertain amount of vomit at the table.
Michele was luckily exempt from consuming anything ocular because of her vegetarian status (not to mention, coincidentally, her general aversion to anything eye-related). Perhaps had I not seen the eyes being carved out of the fish I wouldn’t have been so repulsed. But who are we kidding — eyeballs are up there with Rocky Mountain oysters on the puke scale.
I’ll actually eat, or at least try, most things if I don’t have to see where they come from. Like, I’ll eat roasted pork any day of the week (sorry, Rabbi), but if I have to look at the poor pig roasting on a spit, I’ll definitely take a pass. I’m also just sensitive and compassionate enough that I prefer not to think about where my meal started out before it arrived on my plate. Then again, I also wept watching a clip of Miley Cyrus’ latest music video, so my tears hardly discriminate.
Some people were just born with wheatgrass in their blood. One family friend who is a lifelong vegetarian, although he doesn’t consider himself a “purist” because he occasionally “cheats” by eating baked goods that possibly contain eggs or dairy and wouldn’t hesitate to administer CPR on a cockroach, started a nonprofit in his free time to promote and protect the well-being of the animal community by ensuring they’re free from unnecessary suffering.
When you live honestly in accordance with your beliefs and remain respectful of others should they disagree, you’re an activist. When you engage in acts of criminal sabotage and try to incite change through harassment, you’re PETA.
I’m sure I’ll run into at least a few PETA supporters when I go see the new film, “Food, Inc.” I’m also sure we won’t sit together. But they’re certainly welcome at my house afterward for a barbecue. They’ll just have to bring their own tofu for the grill.
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