I do not remember the exact date that I became a vegetarian
, but I do remember approximately when: It was sometime during the 1993
, maybe near the middle. This then, the middle of 2003
, is the date that I have chosen as the decade
I'm usually quite vague when asked why I became a vegetarian. If I feel relaxed and I am pressed, I will tell the story of the cow dream.
In 1993 I was in my early 20s, living at home and not cooking my own food. My lifestyle was changing though. I had a job, and wheels, and a new circle of friends. May of them were into that whole holistic thing, and many did not eat meat. I absorbed many reasons why vegetarianism is a good idea: just because we can does not mean we should. What is good practice for a small Neolithic population is not wise for a large urbanised population. We are short of land on this small planet, and meat production takes up ten times as much land. An animal is not a machine part, and its death should not be an industry. Buying a shrink-wrapped chop in the supermarket is as serious denial of the reality of what you are causing by so doing.
I knew all this, but I had not changed myself. These were the real reasons. The cow dream was just the catalyst.
I dreamed that I was talking to some of my meat-eating friends. Not just talking but declaiming, belting out all the reasons why vegetarianism was a good idea. I was even waving my finger at them like P.W. Botha, very self-righteously. As I was doing this, a large black-and-white spotted dairy cow walked behind them. It turned and those big sad cow eyes looked at me. Right at me. It met my eyes. I stopped in mid sentence, mortified, shamed, exposed as a hypocrite.
This was my mind reminding me of the untenable disjunction between what I was feeling and what I was still doing. I stopped eating meat the next day.