I had to read this article in the Wall Street Journal three times to try to figure out how I felt about it and I’m still not sure.
If you don’t know the name, chef Dan Barber is a pretty famous advocate of eating locally and runs a restaurant and sustainable farm in New York state. This idea of farming a restaurant’s own food is a great one and I’m all for it, so I wanted to like Dan Barber and what he had to say. I’m just not positive that I do.
In the article, Barber criticizes vegetarians for being holier-than-thou about their lifestyle choice.
He says that he wants someone to explain how vegetarians can feel so self-righteous about their diets.
Butchering and eating animals may not be called kindness, but eating soy burgers that rely on pesticides and fertilizers precipitates destruction too. You don’t have to eat meat, but you should have the good judgment to relinquish the high horse. There is no such thing as guilt-free eating.”
What I don’t understand is why he seems to lump vegetarians into one single group that doesn’t care about sustainable practices or organic farming. Most vegetarians that I know support CSA farms, eat as locally and organically as possible and are all for changing the way commercial producers grow our food.
I also don’t know a lot of vegetarians (although I’m sure they exist) who feel superior or more ethical than those that eat meat. All of us made the decision to go vegetarian for our own personal reasons. I made the change to support my husband, who adopted the vegetarian lifestyle for health reasons. However, I very quickly realized that I felt so good on a vegetarian diet that I would continue even if he didn’t.
After becoming a vegetarian, I learned so much about cruelty to livestock animals and unsafe practices that I would have made the decision to go vegetarian on ethical principles alone. However, I’m not on a mission to make everyone a vegetarian. I would like to see the way meat is raised and butchered changed, though.
One of the other things that Dan Barber said that bothered me was this:
What’s the definition of a healthy diet, the kind you can actually feel a little smug about?”
The reason it bugs me is that I don’t think everyone seeking to eat healthfully is looking for a reason to feel smug. I also think Barber sounds a little too smug about his stance.
I applaud what Barber is doing with his restaurant and his farm. I think that the locavore culture is the hope of healthy, sustainable food production. I just don’t like the way he characterizes a whole group of people (vegans and vegetarians) as smug, self-righteous and ecologically irresponsible.
Read the article yourself and let me know; Am I overreacting or misinterpreting what he’s saying?