I understand and accept that my cat could kill me if she wanted to. She has constant access to my soft, yielding flesh, and she has knives in her paws that I have seen eviscerate lizards, birds, and a sock I filled with catnip. I am also not exactly gifted with fighting prowess, and she is literally in a state of constant denial of her instincts to playfully murder anything that might taste good. My cat could kill me, but she doesn’t. I think my life has been prolonged entirely because she has no need to kill me. I give her food, water, and recreational drugs stuffed into toy mice. Why would she kill me if she doesn’t have to? Even as I assign all these personality traits–restraint, psychopathy–to my kitty, I have to recognize that she’s a tiny murderer, and she has probably had a kitty daydream that involved my gruesome death at her paws. She hasn’t killed me, but she’s probably thought about it.
When I was in kindergarten, we took a field trip to a location I can’t remember for a reason I don’t care about. Neither the location nor the reason matter though because all I remember was the most important part: we got to play with baby chickens, tiny poofs of squeaking yellow, and I got to hold like 10 of them and feel like their bird mom. It was probably one of the best experiences of my childhood.
I’ve probably eaten those chicken’s children. I used to eat more poultry than anyone has business eating except for, maybe, someone whose parents had been pecked to death in a chicken coup d’état.
I used to order burgers and steak rare enough for the cow to still have hope. I used to go through periods of longing for a thick slab or steak so profound that I would have dreams of just having a nice bloody steak dinner. The longing was powerful and invaded the deep recesses of my psyche. And now I’m a vegetarian. But I’m really bad at it.
I love meat. I love the taste, the texture, and cooking it is an adventure of sensual smells and seasoning. I think about meat like a child thinks about a lost toy: I miss it and I want it back and I’m going to writhe on the floor crying because I don’t have it. I miss meat, and I think about it all the time, but I can’t eat it anymore because I honestly cannot think of a reason why I need it beyond it tasting pretty good.
I can’t delude myself into thinking me not eating meat anymore is going to spare a significant number of animals that would have been destined for a spicy night on my stove. I also can’t convince myself to contribute to an industry whose entire purpose is killin’ shit. I don’t want to eat meat because it tasting like humanity’s unquestioned dominion over the planet, and also being really good with rice, isn’t enough of a reason to eat it. Vegetarian food is, surprisingly, often way better than anything I ate when I thought every major meal had to have at least some portion coming from something that used to be able to chew its own food. Vegetables are fun to cook, and I really like the overwhelming sense of moral superiority I have over myself from a few months ago. There are meat substitutes that are supposed to taste similar to meats but just manage to be delicious and not really like meat at all. I know enough about the basic things my body needs to not fall into a rapid spiral now that I’m not feeding myself the succulent bodies of Disney sidekicks. And, like, I’ve been to a supermarket. I’ve seen how many not-meat things they’ve got there. Did anybody else know how cheap zucchini is? That shit can go in anything? Mushrooms too! Why eat a bunch of animals I’d rather be petting when I can stuff myself full of mushrooms and feel like a good little hobbit?
I take moral guidance from my cat. She could kill me. She could eat me. She doesn’t, and it’s likely because she doesn’t need to. She has plenty of food and my ear scritches are professional grade. I think about meat. I want it, and I loved it like I love the hot taste of victory that comes from killing an enemy in single combat, but I don’t need it. I’m probably among the worst vegetarians because I am not even remotely in denial about how delicious meat is, but I still can’t eat it because if I let my sense of what tastes good guide me through every decision, I’d have to get my mail forwarded to a Chinese buffet.