There was anti-vegetarian strife on the home front for the last few weeks. Some members of my family refused to accept that I was a vegetarian. Arguments ensued and angry words were exchanged. People feel threatened by vegetarianism and veganism, but that does give them the right to be offensive or insulting.
Germany is home to about seven million vegetarians, and many more are joining our ranks. The rampant animal cruelty on factory farms is changing public attitudes about eating meat. Many rural and semi-rural communities don’t want new farms because the effluent produced pollutes the local water tables. The massive farms also create a foul stench.
My parents and brothers now eat meat moderately and source their meat from organic suppliers. My sister Rika and I are the only non-meat eaters in the family, and my folks are happy with that. But Uncle Walt, Aunt Betty, and my cousin Werner are very anti-vegetarian. People can have their own views, but I get very aggravated when they are attack my deeply held beliefs.
We sat down to an uneasy late Sunday lunch, and with my parents and siblings gone out, it didn’t take long for the recriminations and counter accusations to start. Werner accused me of being un-German and unpatriotic because I eschewed meat. I told him that he was stupid and backward. Not to be outdone, Aunt Betty then called my brother-in-law Hendrik gullible, and he swiftly labeled her a miserable crone. After all the shouting had subsided somewhat, I tried to tell them about the destructive effects of factory farming: cruelty to animals, emission of greenhouse gases, and excessive use of antibiotics. But they dismissed me with contempt. They also thought climate change was a hoax.
Walt was a church goer and didn’t waste time in telling us that God gave man dominion over all creatures. When I told him that God ordered man to eat only fruits and nuts, he glared at me. I stared back defiantly. Werner was not done yet talking rubbish and claimed that climate change was a conspiracy perpetrated by certain ethnic groups. I made a lewd gesture at him and called him an imbecile. All three were openly anti-Semitic, and after my uncle blamed the Jews for all that was bad in the world, the conversation exploded into swearing and insults.
Hendrik disliked Werner from the start, and they disagreed on everything from the beginning. Werner was spouting his regular racist views when Hendrik threw a punch at him. Luckily Hendrik missed or my idiot cousin would be lying sprawled out on the floor. I hurriedly stepped in between the two to prevent a brawl. This was not the first time they tried to beat each other up, and it probably won’t be the last.
The anti-vegetarian strife on the home front had escalated over the last month, and my folks had their hands full trying to keep the peace. Hendrik was almost a vegetarian and that inflamed Walt and company even more. We were called traitors to the German nation. My father’s SUV hooted as it made its way up the driveway in time to prevent Hendrik from trying to punch Werner’s lights out again.
Aunt Betty has in the meanwhile softened her anti-vegetarian stance, and since Werner follows her lead most of the time, hopefully he will soon be tolerant. People are often suspicious and fearful of new ideas and change. All I could do is inform and enlighten them.
Picture of pig gestation crates, courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States.