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As a vegetarian I often find myself wondering about what I would do in certain situations in other cultures. I know there are many countries where it is pretty hard to not eat meat, and most of the people wouldn’t understand why I wouldn’t eat perfectly good, protein-filled food.

I am always conflicted by this. Part of traveling to new places for me is experiencing real life in that place. I don’t want to hide in a resort and surround myself by tourists when I travel. I want to go out, try new things, experience and see what real life is like in that place.  I don’t get grossed out by other cultures, and I do my best to experience whatever I can that is “real”. I didn’t go to Mexico to eat Burger King (the picture at the top is of the Burger King in Merida on the Yucatan Peninsula that we didn’t go to!); I went to try to local food. I didn’t, however, eat meat products of any kind. There wasn’t a problem with that in most places we went. There was always something I could eat and I didn’t kick up a fuss, but I still felt like I wasn’t experiencing the culture.

I was talking to the boyfriend about this last night and he asked what I would do in places and situations where “no meat” was looked down upon or difficult. I’m not completely certain, and it all depends on the situation. My go-to response would be that I don’t eat meat for religious reasons. Most people understand and respect doing something for religious reasons, they don’t understand doing it for personal “moral” (I hate the word moral in this context) reasons.

Anyway, I would probably bend the truth in most circumstances. Plus, I would do my best to not be in a situation where my beliefs were offensive or not welcome. As a woman, I probably wouldn’t go to a country where women were no really allowed out of the house. I would not fit in, I would probably offend people, and there’s no reason for that. In the same vein, if there is an area/country where I know that my beliefs are not welcome then I wouldn’t go.

The boyfriend followed up with an interesting question about not having much choice of destination and risking offending people. He talked about a teacher of his who had been sent to a rural part of the DR Congo for school. The teacher and his group were greeted by the tribe with which they were staying  with the highest possible honor: the offering of a live monkey whose head was cut open – the delicacy was to scoop the brains out and eat them. What would I do in this situation? You can’t turn that down and reject this huge honor, but it goes against anything I would ever what to do (eating animal, eating animal while it’s alive, eating brains [something that I have a problem with for medical-based reasons])

Frankly I don’t know what I would do. Despite this blog, I really hate offending people, so it would be a really difficult situation. This is, however, a type of question I am asked relatively often at different levels when my dietary habits are brought up. I would like to respond with a question for you:

We live in a society in which killing another human is seen as wrong, and killing a conscious, innocent person as a sacrifice would be abhorrent. I am assuming that most of you would agree with this line of thinking. Well, what if you went to a remote tribe somewhere and you were offered their highest honer: killing the highest ranked member’s young child. What would you do?

This goes against every “moral” fiber in your being I assume. That is how I feel with meat-eating. To me these two scenarios are completely analogous. This analogy really helps me convey my view and why I can’t just ignore it for a while because you don’t agree with my beliefs.

What would you do in the murder situation?

And before anyone asks, yes, I am a self-centered human, on a desert island I would probably eat an animal. But frankly, I’d eat human too if I wanted to stay alive that badly. And I’m pretty certain you would kill and eat human if you had to too, human history seems to have taught us that we lose all beliefs and morals when put in these situations. If you haven’t, read Lord of the Flies!

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