Monday, April 28, 2008

Stereotypes, misinformation and Happy Meat

It's curious how just in the past two days, the Ottawa Citizen's managed to provide two lifestyle articles promoting negative stereotypes of vegetarians and / or vegans and, with them, completely inaccurate opinions of the healthiness of vegetarianism.

Michael Murray's piece in Saturday's paper asserts that anytime he's ever been inside a vegetarian restaurant that ''everybody in those places looked unhealthy. Thin and anemic, they all appeared as if they'd been suffering the affects of a parasite'' and concludes that ''the avoidance of meat was in fact making these people sick''. Then he perpetuates the stereotype that all vegetarians and vegans are ''humourless'' and ''political'', that they're living ascetic existences and seeking ''equal rights with humans'' for non-human animals. Murray strikes me as being that sort of loud and obnoxious type who makes unbelievably tasteless jokes based on stereotypes at an office party, completely oblivious to the reactions around him, and then when told he's being rude, lewd or mean-spirited, would shrug and, even more loudly, exclaim ''What? You can't take a joke?!''.

In today's paper, Joanne Laucius presents meat eating as making a comeback, continuously referring to omnivorous humans as ''carnivores'' (which would mean that people subsist on meat alone, with no need for vegetables, fruit or grains -- see any food guide for proof to the contrary). She sets the tone by kicking off her article by referring to the ''dedicated and pallid vegan'' with whom she used to work and describes how she'd needle this coworker about her dietary choices. She spends most of the article talking about what she calls ethical meat eating, then brings up another example of the stereotypical sickly vegetarian by mentioning a born again meat fetishist (and self-proclaimed former on-again / off-again vegetarian) who's recently -- jumping on the latest trend -- written a book about happy meat (see Gary Francione's post about the expression and movement) and who states that when she eschews meat, ''she doesn't feel or look well''.

It's interesting for me (and very telling) to see how, in writing articles promoting the eating of animal flesh, the writers need to rely, at some level or another, on perpetuating the myth that not eating animals is unhealthy and somewhat freakish. As presenting this misinformation is needed to add weight to the argument that eating meat is and should be the norm.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised this stereotype still exists. I stopped eating meat for a year and did not feel as strong because I wasn't aware of protein choices and didn't eat properly, but did maintain my sense of humor. One of my friends is vegetarian and one of the healthiest people I know. Another one is vegan and cooks the best food I've ever tasted. She's an avid rock climber and one of the kindest most caring people I've ever met. She has a glow about her and I've never seen her sick.

Dagny McKinley
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