Years ago, in the dark days of my youth, cigarette companies (gasp!) were actually allowed to advertise on television. Today we're more enlightened. Tune in for more than 5 minutes now and you'll see several fast food companies trying to hook kids on hamburgers with promises of free toys. Such progress. (What's that, you say? Something about products that kill when used as intended???)
Anyway, one of those early cigarette ads pointed out all the disadvantages of the sponsor's new, longer cigarettes, showing how they could get caught in elevator doors, make you late for your own wedding, etc. Of course by pointing out these minor disadvantages, their real purpose was to show the significant advantages of their product (more tobacco, longer smoking times, faster lung cancer).
We can play the same game with vegetarianism. Try these, for example:
Disadvantage: "No hamburgers off the grill for me."
Advantage: "I just saved 8 trees in the rain forest."
Disadvantage: "There's nothing on this menu I can eat."
Advantage: "I didn't feel stuffed [sick/guilty/poor/etc.] after eating lunch."
Disadvantage/Advantage: "Oh gosh, all my friends are going into the hospital for bypass surgery, but I wasn't invited."
You get the idea. The primary plusses and minuses of vegetarianism should be obvious to everyone—everyone except meat-eaters I guess. Sometime when you're really bored, though (like when you're reading this column, or when one of those fast food commercials comes on during your favorite show), think of some of the more subtle ways your diet/lifestyle preference has made your life both miserable and wonderful. Here are a few ideas from your fellow vegetarians to get you started:
Disadvantage: "I ordered the 'veggie special' pizza, hold the cheese please, and they charged me the full menu price. You'd think by eliminating the most expensive ingredient they could shave a few bucks off the tab."
Disadvantage: "My dinner came with soup and salad, but I couldn't eat the soup because it had a beef broth. Did they give me a discount? No way!"
Advantage: There is no restaurant in the world where the "Oysters Rockefeller" is priced less than the "garden salad."
Disadvantage: "There have been times when I've been trapped in some of the most primitive places on earth (LaGuardia Airport in New York City, for example), where civilized dining is impossible. Once, when I was eating my dinner of Burger King French fries, I looked over at the people next to me eating chicken salad. It suddenly occurred to me that this was one night when I might possibly be eating healthier if I wasn't a vegetarian!"
Disadvantage/Advantage: The only desserts the restaurant had were loaded with cows' milk and chickens' eggs. Those things seemed gross to me, so it took no willpower at all to go for the berries. I saved a thousand calories' worth of saturated fat and felt good about myself for days."
Disadvantage: "My diet's so alien to them, my friends never invite me to dinner anymore. Heck, they're a bunch of stiffs anyway."
Advantage: "When charities hit me up for money I ask: 'Will my donation be used for animal testing? Will my money be used to buy meat?' If they don't slink quickly away (they usually do), at least I know my donation will go to a good cause."
Disadvantage: "Why does soy milk have to cost more than cows' milk when, all things considered, it's much cheaper to produce?"
Disadvantage/Advantage: "When I became a vegetarian I had to learn to cook for myself. It saved me a fortune and gave me a new hobby."
Disadvantage: "I didn't want to eat butter anymore, so I switched to olive oil. It's really lousy on pancakes."
Advantage: "It's great on everything else."
Advantage: "It doesn't bother me that federal meat inspection is so shoddy."
Disadvantage/Advantage: "I ordered the vegetarian meal on my last airline flight. Not only was it vegetarian, but the margarine was salt-free, the salad dressing was oil-free, and the roll was taste-free. It was still better than what they served the meat eaters."
If you play the disadvantage/advantage game with vegetarianism long enough, a couple of things become obvious. First, whatever disadvantages you might think up aren't problems inherent in vegetarianism at all, but are merely products of our minority status in society and lack of action on the part of meat-eaters. Second, the disadvantages of vegetarianism seem trivial when compared to the advantages.
Of course they do. That's why we're vegetarians.