On Shrove Tuesday 2010, I ate my last piece of golden, delicious sausage while listening to “When the Saints Go Marching In.” A Lenten practice of consuming no meat unfolded, followed by a turkey-less Thanksgiving, and an Advent with rice and beans. There were two reasons for my going cold turkey as a vegetarian: survival in an interfaith marriage to a devout Hindu, and a spiritual exploration of what it might mean to practice nonviolence and environmental sustainability as a Christian vegetarian.
I found this incident at Vermont College very sad. The sustainable-farming-oriented school planned to slaughter two oxen it's had for years and serve them at the dining hall. Faced with protests from animal rights activists—who successfully prevented the college from finding a willing slaughterhouse—the college ended up having to euthanize one of the animals, who had a bad injury and declining quality of life. As planned, the ox was killed. But nobody got to eat him.
The New York Times has never been exactly hesitant to publish articles that look cluelessly down on the cultural life of U.S. cities with fewer than 8 million residents. So I'm not sure I'd blame nepotism alone for the A. G. Sulzberger clunker the paper published this week.
Are vegetarians trying to save animals or are they trying to save themselves? Is vegetarianism about changing the world or escaping from it? These are questions the acclaimed novelist and critic J. M. Coetzee raises in a wonderfully inventive and inconclusive book.