As news comes that Fort Greene vegetarian eatery Red Bamboo is adding meat to its menu and changing its name to “Poppa’s Place” (classy!), I wonder to myself, “Hey, are the conscience-driven post-collegiate Brooklynites who were once vegetarian now refocusing their ethical standards on issues of local, non-processed, naturally produced food? And,” I continue to think to myself, “Will this lead to a decline in vegetarianism?” It sort of makes sense.
There are a lot of reasons to be a vegetarian (and I am one) but I’ve always found the full-stop “we just shouldn’t kill animals” argument to be the squishiest, least intellectually compelling of the bunch, particularly in the context of trying to get meat eaters to think about where their food comes from. The environmental, economic, health and cruelty arguments are at the center of my own vegetarianism (and yes, I do see an intellectually viable separation between cruelty and death in this case… the industrially bred chicken vs. the wild boar); but honestly, I would have no problem eating some wild salmon I’d just caught and cleaned (that’s my own, very personal line, which I have yet to cross in my 15-odd years of vegetarianism). So I can definitely understand conscience-driven Brooklynites choosing to eat free-range chicken from a local farm rather than mass-produced, highly processed soy products shipped across country.
And frankly, I don’t really have a huge problem with this, as I’m a big fan of the whole locavore thing of the last decade. The only thing I worry about is the slippery slope-iness of it all: it’s really hard to check the provenance of every piece of meat you might come into the temptation of eating (and holy shit, meat IS DELICIOUS). That’s why I’ve always just avoided the headache, to make triple sure I’m not part of the Meat Industrial Complex. As I’ve said, I’d happily eat something I’ve killed and cleaned myself, but that opportunity doesn’t come up much.
P.S. To vegetarians worried about mass-produced fake meat products, seitan is super-easy to make at home, and it’s way cheaper.