Ben Shaberman

A vegetarian in the land of pork

October 5th, 2003 by Ben

A vegetarian in the land of pork

Des Moines Register
By Ben Shaberman
October 5, 2003

You might think that being a vegetarian in the nation’s pork-producing capital would be a lonely existence. But after three years in Iowa, I’ve found a niche for myself as vice president of the Vegetarian Community of Iowa. My running mate and I won last year’s election in a landslide, and we’ve maintained outstanding approval ratings without invading a foreign country or a steakhouse.

Granted, our organization has only 25 members. But we’re an active, close-knit group with strong convictions. Do we sit around worshipping vegetables? Well, sometimes. During our last gathering, we chanted over a plate of steamed broccoli. On special occasions we might offer blessings to a stir-fried vegetable medley with bean curd.

If you think that’s weird, consider the fact that 1,000,000-plus Iowans go to the State Fair every year to see a cow made of butter. And many of these people already have authentic cattle in their own backyards.

However, as a vegetarian, I’m not very comfortable with our State Fair’s massive showing of soon-to-be-slaughtered livestock. I feel like I’m going to Porky Pig’s last supper, and he is the last supper.

The meatless lifestyle is gaining in popularity, even in Iowa. However, there are many people who claim to go without meat, but still eat fish or chicken. These charlatans are more accurately known as fish-o-tarians and chick-o-tarians. They are the same people who stand in the 12-item express lane at the grocery store with 34 items in their cart.

Maybe the toughest part about being vegetarian in Iowa is that we are considered bad for the state’s enormous livestock business. That may be true, but we plant-eaters are good for the health-care system because of our lower rates of heart disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes.

Most vegetarians are peaceful, especially those of us with the Vegetarian Community of Iowa. We may get a little aggressive if you get in our way while we’re perusing a produce stand, or we may hiss and sneer when we pass a meat counter. But just give us our tofu burgers, soy milk and B12 supplements, and no one will get hurt.

Posted in The Des Moines Register

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