Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Women, vegetarianism and diamonds

I’ve had an interesting time during the past three weeks. I’ve had conversations with two very beautiful and smart ladies about vegetarianism. Well, one’s a tomboy actually, so I don’t know if it counts, but both are intelligent, beautiful and opinionated (a dying breed). Both were born into families that were vegetarian, and as it usually happens, they towed the line and as with most ‘born vegetarians’, they started looking for reasons to back their decision to walk down the path they’d chosen. And trust me, this isn’t a veg vs non-veg issue.

The arguments always start off with “being against the perceived cruelty towards animals”. And when I point out that “I” am not the one being cruel to the animal (trust me, it’s well past dead when it reaches my plate), then the argument jumps to pointing out that if we didn’t want to eat them, they (animals) wouldn’t have to be culled in the first place. Sounds good, but then I point out that “…people require proteins…”, and before I can complete the entire explanation, they were at my throat (thankfully I had the conversations separately, on different days) with suggestions of tofu and pulses and other fancy things which are sources of protein that don’t involve the killing of animals. OK, fair enough, but if only they’d allowed me to complete my statement, they’d have heard me say “…and not everyone can have access to processed food stuff like tofu, and pulses aren’t available everywhere… so economics comes into play… so some people would do what’s easier and cheaper, like a person on the coast will catch fish, etc”. Well, it never got to that when I first discussed it, because women (almost) never allow men to complete what they want to say (now you know the reasons for ‘communication failures’). When I managed to say this to one of them, I got a reply “…but economics can’t be an excuse to kill animals”. Intelligent, beautiful, opinionated and cut-throat! Sweet. Easier said than done though, because then by the same logic, we shouldn’t kill plants either, because they too have life, and then we’re back to square one.

A few other points were raised about how could someone allow this to take place and that a compassionate person’s conscience would be pricked to know what’s done to the animals. We went back and forth over how plants too are living things and just because they don’t bleat or yelp while being cut, you can’t say that it’s OK to end its life. And to take forward the ‘pricking of the conscience’ concept, I have something that would (and should) prick the conscience of every starry eyed woman out there. Would you give up diamonds, your best friend(s)? Not because I or the millions of men out there cannot afford them or wouldn’t want to make an effort to get one for you ladies while we’re popping the question, but because of the baggage that comes attached with the diamonds. Everyone has watched the movie Blood Diamond (and if not, then go watch it), and there isn’t a lot of exaggeration in it when it comes to what is done to procure the diamonds from the mines in Africa.

The movie shows the cruelty behind the clarity, the cuts behind the cut, the carnal instincts behind the carat, and the crude and cruel use of children that brings out the colour, covering the four C’s of a diamond, not to mention all the gore behind the glitter and the sweat behind the sparkle. I told another female friend about this (another vegetarian), about how the mine owners (rebel warlords) would cut off the hand of a person who wouldn’t work for them to mine diamonds, and waited for her reaction. I could see the pupils of her eyes do crazy things, and I thought to myself “Looks like you’ve got her there!” But what followed was one of the craziest things I’ve ever heard, and I kid you not. She looks at me, all sad and with Bamby eyes and asks, “They cut off both hands is it?” @#!%?&^*. What?!?!? Does it freakin’ matter??? It’s not like having only one hand to eat, shake, and wipe your back side with are considered cool.

Which brings me to another point, namely, as part of being politically correct, a lot of people subscribe to the fable of ‘women are smarter than men’. Now in the 21st century, why do we go around comparing the sexes? Ask a guy if he thinks men and women are equal, and you’ll most likely get a sound that’s a combo of a laugh, a grunt and a guffaw. Stupid? Yes, extremely. Ask this to a woman, and you’ll most likely get to hear “Of course men and women are not equal… we (women) are better!” Stupid? Hell, yes! In this day and age, in the 21st century, does it really matter who is smarter? Because if there’s a prize that was announced, I certainly missed the announcement. And also, isn’t it the norm to compare apples with apples? And if women are really smarter than men, then why is it that they still seem fascinated by small, shiny objects, just like a mynah or a magpie?

So let me ask the question that is the obvious implication from all the banter here: would women who claim they are vegetarians because they are against cruelty towards animals stop using diamond jewellery because of the cruelty towards humans? Or for the ‘clever’ ones who are going to say “Well, I don’t use diamond jewellery”, would they put forward the same conscience-pricking argument to their mothers, relatives and friends (and this is open even for the vegetarian men)? And since we just concluded festivities for Deepavali, the festival of lights here in India, let me throw in an addendum (again, open even to the veggie men): would you stop bursting crackers because of the use of child labour and the inhuman conditions that the children are kept in to get the crackers ready each year, let alone the pollution aspect? And if economics can’t be an excuse to kill animals to feed yourself and your family, the need to look pretty doesn’t warrant the execution and torture of thousands of fellow human beings (and this isn’t even taking into account the cruelty towards animals that are used to test several cosmetics), and I don’t even know why we started bursting fire crackers during the festival of Deepavali, because it’s supposed to be the festival of lights and nowhere is it mandated that fire crackers need to be a part of this.

A nice way to evade answering the questions (for women) would be to shoot a question back at me and lecture me about why I’m not asking this question to vegetarian men, and why the topic specifically targets women. Good point, I will, but I need to find an Achilles heel of sorts for men like diamonds are to women, so until then it’s going to be only the fire crackers part and therefore only some indirect heat on them.

After talking to my two lady friends I mentioned at the start, both of who by the way, said they’d drop diamonds for something else, like amethyst or emeralds or just platinum (I don’t know if there’s any ugly baggage that comes with any of these), I was also told that it would eventually boil down to an individuals’ choice. So one may be an animal lover and not buy leather products of alligator skin boots, but if he or she likes food, then they could possibly decide to give the whole ‘cruelty to animals’ thing a skip, and the same would hold good for women who adore diamonds: they could still go gaga over the shiny stones and not think twice about all the blood left in its wake. Ditto with bursting fire crackers. So then the obvious conclusion one can draw is that it’s nothing short of hypocrisy. If morality were truly in the fray, then it would be based on principle, and principles don’t (shouldn’t) change from food to jewellery to bursting fire crackers. Does that mean morality is dead? I should hope not, but we’re certainly witnessing a steady but certain change in how we choose to manifest our morals into actions. Cherry-picking where we would want to exhibit our morality and where we choose to ignore it isn’t indicative of a moral person, and at the risk of offending even some of my friends, I’ll go ahead and say it is indicative of hypocrisy and nothing else. I won’t buy the argument that a little nuance is called for here because otherwise we will not be able to do anything without doing something ‘wrong’. Sorry, no can do, because I’m not the one peddling the moral/ethical issue here. So the next time someone you know tells you that he or she is a vegetarian because of morals and what not, and you know that they are exhibiting the same cherry-picking attitude I’ve spoken about, you can either smile at their idiocy, or just give them the finger.

*Note*: Before you start commenting, know this: I am NOT saying that vegetarianism is good or bad, and this is NOT a “veg vs non-veg” or a “which is better” thingy. No, it isn’t. If you thought it was, please read the article again. It’s obvious a veg vs non-veg article would have taken a different path. All I’m doing is comparing an action done under the banner of morality or ethics with certain other acts where the moral/ethical standards seem to have been disregarded, and have arrived at the conclusion that more often than not it is sheer hypocrisy and nothing else. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, comment away.


In Search Of Myself said...

Very nicely written post!!!

I think that no one eats non veg to uphold any greater value or thinking that they'll be hurting plants too, rather kill animals and eat 'em. People eat non-veg just for 1 reason - for the taste of the meat...that's it. Some people like eating flesh. Weirdo's!!! Which by the way also needs stuff from veg family to make it edible, no one can eat flesh by itself, except animals and thus the teeth and intestine and stomach lining etc...IMHO

Personally for me a women eating non-veg is the ugliest thing there can be...The sight just doesn't match up.

Does economics of veg or non veg apply to people like us living in cities? No it does not alternatives are avaialable easily... And if the acres of land that's being gobbled up by factory farms for animal breeding is freed up, there'll be enough veg for everybody.

If one needs only one reason to think why veg? It's environment. That's it.

hahahaha...love the whole diamond and women and us poor guys thing!!!That movie was good. I think there's an option to buy blood diamond free (or something like that) diamond....it's a kind of certificate...

I guess it all depends on how aware you are about something be it crackers or clothes and then what choices you make...as people become more aware they (smart one's atleast) make the right choices, which is good for everyone or most of us.

~ Ashwani

Karthik Shetty said...

A small flaw in your rebuttal- “if acres of land used for breeding animals is freed up, there’s be enough veg for everybody”. Er, no, not really, because you’re making this statement with the premise that such lands can always be used for agriculture, but that hasn’t been established. Maybe such lands support only grass and such kinds of vegetation to be grown and not the type needed for human consumption. Not all lands used for breeding purposes are fertile lands, so you can’t straight away arrive at your conclusion.

Anonymous said...

Just b,coz plant,s r eaten doesn,t prove u,re statement that animals can b eaten too..Think about the thing,s u need to survive, rather than satisfy u,re tintilating taste bud,s.....It all depend,s what b,comes u,re necessity & luxury.Iam not trying to prove what is good/bad....Iam trying to prove how much difference u can make by not giv'n u,reself to u,re weakness....
The point of culling of animal,s even otherwise..Nature has a way of taking care by itself.....Nature is made that way..Everything is balanced in it by itself.
I believe in organic, be organic, live organic & make a difference ...Let it start 4rom u....Y try to justify u,re views on veg/non-veg issues.....Y don,t u start to make this big difference...........Maybe not to all the animal,s but @ least a few.

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