I used to be a vegetarian. This was three decades ago, long before it was cool. Back then you couldn’t get Quorn or rennet-free cheese or Linda McCartney ready meals. The most you could hope for was mung bean salad followed by a few carob coated raisins.
That wasn’t why I gave up vegetarianism, though. After a while I’d realised that it was perfectly possible to expand the boundaries of what “vegetarian” meant. The real problem was other veggies, who were simply too bigoted/basic/unsophisticated [delete as appropriate] to grasp this.
I came up with an acronym for them: BEVs, which stood for bacon exclusionary vegetarians. It was their firm belief that being a vegetarian meant you couldn’t eat bacon sandwiches. I found this not only erasing of my own experience as a bacon-eating veggie, but profoundly pigphobic.
One thing that BEVs will always claim is that pigs don’t want to be eaten. I’m aware that, for some pigs, this is true. But why should this be all pigs? Isn’t it hypothetically possible that some pigs want nothing more than to be free to make choices about their bodies? Who are we to question their agency? True, when you’re eating your sandwich you can’t actually tell whether the pig in question was choosing to be sliced up and cured. But it might have been. It’s not only patronising but speciesist to assume that all pigs fear death. Just because you wouldn’t want anyone close to you to end their days in a slaughterhouse, there’s no reason to assume everyone else shares your bigoted hang-ups.
Another thing BEVs will say is that legitimising bacon-eating increases demand for bacon, and will hence lead to more unwilling pigs being slaughtered, what with the supply of willing pigs being finite. Obviously this is nonsense. It will just mean that less deserving bacon-eaters have to go without their bacon, despite this having an impact on their agency. Or maybe there’d be another solution, since compromising anyone’s agency is just the worst thing ever. Anyhow, the two things are completely unrelated and only a pig-hating BEV would think otherwise.
I tried to explain this to my fellow vegetarians but they were having none of it. For them, the definition of vegetarianism is still stuck in the past, with its binary categories of “meat” and “not meat.” Which is stupid, since that is exactly how meat-eaters define food and we can do better than imitating their ways. Whenever there was a vegetarian gathering, I’d check in advance to see whether it was bacon inclusive. The answer was always no. In the end I gave up.
These days I’m a feminist, which is much easier than being a vegetarian. You can be a fully paid-up supporter of the liberation of women without being the kind of bigot who excludes ideologies and practices which promote the oppression of women. After all, when women say they oppose, say, the sex trade, that’s not what they really mean anyway; they’re actually hating on the women they claim are harmed by it. Because reasons. Anyhow, that’s why I never go to any feminist event that doesn’t already have a “we approve of violent pornography, the sex trade and a theory of innate gender” seal of approval. Thankfully, I don’t think there are any of those left.