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August 3, 2012: Nothing wrong with veggie dogs

Originally posted on this blog.

The choices that we vegetarians (and vegans) have made are often questioned by individuals who eat meat. Issues are often raised to try to undermine the validity of our choices, to expose them as either "hypocritical" or just plain wrong. Some of these are typical, others less so. Sitting firmly in the second category is one I've heard several times in the past year or so: That eating soy-based (and other) meat alternatives "proves" that we need meat. How? Because (according to the argument) the very existence of these substitutes means that we obviously have a craving for meat, a craving that has to be fulfilled. The same people have gone on to say that they just don't understand how someone who has given up meat would want to be reminded of the flavor in the first place.

I don't really see what the big deal is. Part of the reason that these products exist is to provide us with the nutritional value of meat, albeit without the nasty side effects of animal fats, and without the ethical fallout related to making millions of sentient beings suffer and die. So is it strange for vegetarians to continue eating hot dogs, even if they are veggie hot dogs? At this point it's important to ask oneself why people consume meat alternatives. If it's only because they hate the taste of meat, then yes, eating veggie dogs could be viewed as somewhat paradoxical. If, however, they stopped eating meat for ethical or health reasons, then buying these products should not be viewed as strange. Many of us in North and South America, Europe, and many other parts of the world, have grown up eating certain meat-based dishes. I, like many vegetarians, only started to have a problem with the taste of meat when I began (rightfully) associating it with what it represents - the suffering and murder of innocent beings. These days, when I buy vegetarian meat substitutes, it's because I want to be reminded of some of the food I grew up on, without having to partake in the actual death cycle of the meat industry. There is nothing wrong with that.

In fact, the way I see it, the more vegetarian versions of traditionally meat-based dishes there are, the better. It's not easy to get people to switch over to a completely vegetarian diet. The addiction to meat is often a powerful one, but the addiction to one's traditions (of which food is a big part) can be even more powerful. The more cruelty-free versions of traditional food there are, the better the chances of a smooth transition for someone who wants to leave all the negativity of the meat industry behind.

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