I take pride in being a fairly adaptable, strong-willed person. When I decided to become a vegetarian over six months ago, I had no doubts that I would be able to stick to my criteria and complete my self-assigned challenge (vegetarian diet for two years). Another thing that I take pride in, is being relatively private and open-minded… the vast majority of my friends and family did not know about my new commitment until very recently. Now that they do know, I’ve been hit with a bevy of jokes from my male friends and family, and a plethora of questions from all of my acquaintances. So, in order to provide some explanation and defense of my “tree-hugging,” I regularly engage in rhetorical arguments; without the intention of persuading other people to adopt my opinions.
The question that I am most frequently asked (usually accompanied by a startled expression and tone) is “why?” My first response is always: “because meat is murder,” and after casually breaking the tension I go on to lead my inquisitor, or curious friend, in a Socratic dialect-inspired series of questions.
“Well, you do understand that the planet is currently approaching the maximum capacity for population and food-production, right?” “And, of course you are well aware that it is more efficient to plant the crops, grow them and eat them; instead of feeding them to another animal and waiting until it is appropriate to eat the previously mentioned animal?” From there I may go on to discuss how many Americans do not receive the proper amount of vitamins and nutrients from the current meat-focused diets of the west; or I may discuss how rain forests are being destroyed in order to create more space for factory farms. The latter of which creates large amounts of methane and industrial waste, which create even more environmental destruction; in addition to subjecting sentient beings to highly questionable conditions and treatment. Ultimately, I will end by discussing the large amount of unnatural hormones and chemicals that are injected into livestock and how this effects the development of the human species.
However, at the end of the back-and-forth discussion; although many of the people I talk with agree with me on most of the points; no one ever adopts the same, semi-radical diet that I have. We exchange more banter, and I jokingly say something like “you’re killing the planet,” but at the end of it all, I realize that effective use of rhetorical strategy (ethos, logos and pathos included in equal parts) is only really useful for getting people to understand differing viewpoints and ideologies; not change their entire lifestyle. Because I understand this, I never make the debate out to be anything more than friendly discussion.
What I have learned; just as Socrates and Plato claimed in their day, is that people are contradictory, myself included. Rhetoric is an effective tool for creating a harmonious world, but it is just the first of many, many steps required to change the world. If, I’m really being honest with myself (and I like to think I am most of the time), the real reason that I became a vegetarian, is that I was sick of picking meat particles out of my metal orthodontic braces…sometimes it really is as simple as that.