The vegetarian’s dilemma: trouble “walking the talk”

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Lots of people are guilty of saying one thing and doing something else. They’re “going to exercise,” “eat less fast food,” “stop talking on their phone while driving,” etc. However, they probably didn’t proclaim to the world that they adhere to a certain lifestyle while regularly (and secretively) veering from it.

A recent article in Business Insider reported on the results of a CNN survey, in which 10,000 Americans were asked about their eating habits. Approximately 6 percent of the respondents identified themselves as vegetarians, however when researchers asked them to describe their eating habits, 60 percent of the so-called vegetarians reported having eaten red meat, poultry or fish within the last 24 hours!

These results mirror a similar study (the Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals) conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. More than 13,300 Americans were surveyed, with 3 percent claiming to be vegetarians. However, when researchers followed up a week later, 66 percent of the self-proclaimed, duplicitous veggie-lovers had eaten meat the day before. They sure were talking out of both sides of their mouths.

It appears vegetarians like the name but don’t adhere to the definition. In some social circles, it’s popular to be a vegetarian, and teenagers may use it as a way to rebel against their parents. In fact, one teeny bopper who berated the picture of a gilt being shown at the World Pork Expo proudly proclaimed to “just becoming a vegetarian.” My guess is her vow lasted a day or two.

She wouldn’t be alone. Vegetarianism is a phase rather than a lifestyle for the majority of people who try it. Surveys suggest that roughly 75 percent of the people who quit eating meat eventually change their minds and return to a diet that includes animal flesh.

I think it’s ironic and a little bit funny that Bill Clinton is a professed vegetarian. In fact, he would be the perfect spokesman for the movement. He’s already an experienced liar, and people want to believe that he doesn’t eat meat. Personally, my guess is he’s a closet bacon-eater.

It’s not surprising that people want to eat meat, even though they say they don’t. It’s one of the safest, most economical and available sources of protein and it’s delicious.

“The great paradox of our culture's schizoid attitudes about animals is that as our concern for their welfare has increased, so has our desire to eat them,” writes Hal Herzog in a Psychology Today article. Herzog says that in 1975, the average American ate 178 pounds of red meat and poultry; by 2007, the number had jumped to 222 pounds. And while the number of cattle harvested for consumption has decreased by nearly 20 percent since 1975, the number of chickens harvested has risen 200 percent. If you include dairy and eggs in the equation, the average American eats 920 pounds of animal products each year.

While animal rights groups and others who promote vegetarianism have worked hard to demoralize meat consumption, the vast majority of Americans aren’t biting. Instead, they’re biting into juicy, mouth-watering pork chops, steaks and burgers.

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USA  |  July, 10, 2013 at 04:30 PM

this has such a nasty, arrogant tone and is full of misstatements and falsehoods. figures.

Iowa  |  July, 10, 2013 at 04:41 PM

Surveys usually provide a pretty good snapshot, especially when you have such large sample groups of 10,000 and 13,000. Would be interested in what you feel are the "misstatements" and "falsehoods" you've mentioned. Seems to me most the "falsehoods" can be attributed to the people spotlighted in the article.

Just Here  |  July, 10, 2013 at 09:18 PM

Articles about studies are always welcome, but i don't understand why insulting bill clinton, he is hardly the only known vegetarian ( actually vegan ) and it is more a personal attack than something relevant... Plus animal rights group do not work hard to demoralize meat eating, meat eating is amoral by the very definition of morals, you cannot work hard to make something moral or immoral, it either is or isn't. Same as with being a vegetarian, there is no mid grounds.

Everywhere  |  July, 11, 2013 at 09:31 AM

"one of the safest, most economical and available sources of protein" is clearly at best a misstatment, as many a scientific publication has proven again and again, the costs in land, water, and proteins ( you actually use more proteins from plants to feed cattle than you obtain, you need more ressources of every single type involved ) is simply a waste. Safety is a known and proven issue, both from zoonotic diseases and from the chemicals used to prevent them. Availability is obviously an issue since land, water, and food for the animals are needed in greater quantities, and this at a time when the population is rising and the desertification progressing. I'd like to see you write your comments on say the Stockholm International Water Institute saying that the lack of water might simply force us to go vegetarian...

July, 11, 2013 at 09:54 AM

Virtually all civilizations since the beginning of mankind have eaten meat. Have all been amoral? Livestock herds have always been, up until the 20th century, grazing ruminants. The disconnects and ignorance evident among some vegans and vegetarians are appalling. Never before the end of the twentieth century did 99 percent of a civilization's population rely upon one percent to feed it. If 99 percent of people reject the truth for a surface appearance of morality, civilization will end in catastrophe. Only by grazing large herds of ruminant animals on forage-covered soil can large-scale soil replenishment occur. Only healthy soil can produce truly healthy food. The famine of quality in our soils is the result of over a half-century of widespread use of artificial fertilizers. To develop their large brains & avoid obese bodies, people need very high quality protein and a diversity of foods that have their origins in green plants. Meat and milk from domesticated grazing ruminants are our best hope for a healthy population in the future. See A serving of bacon doesn't provide a great percentage of our daily requirements for protein, but does supply many calories from fat. Bacon, as some but not all people know, comes from hogs that have been fed corn. Most hogs are fed out on concrete these days and many never see the light of day. Although they will root up grass if they ever get to see any, pigs are not grazing ruminants. Hogs are omnivores, much like people. The leanest cut of pork is the tenderloin; more people choose bacon. Actual choices, not preferences, govern health. Closet bacon-eaters do nothing to help make the world a better, healthier place. Once grew hogs, am now a grass farmer

Kansas  |  July, 11, 2013 at 10:14 AM

The human body is the product of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, fueled by the consumption of cooked animal flesh. It's what our bodies are designed to consume. Today, we put lots of junk in our bodies (hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, soy products, etc) that nature didnt' intend, but meat is precisely what nature intended. W.E., you really should try wild bacon. There are lots of places to hunt pigs down south, and they're leaner and more flavorful than the "city" pigs (which grow up on concrete instead of grass).

Gettysburg  |  July, 11, 2013 at 10:54 AM

I am always amused to watch smug vegan evangelists frantically spurring their high horses, flogging them into a lather in the rarefied air of their effete vegetarian moral high ground. The very definition of hubris, these sold-out veggie worshiping gasbags.

SW Mo  |  July, 11, 2013 at 02:05 PM

Probably didn't catch the news from Just Here. No gray areas in being moral or immoral. Same line of thought - you're a liar or your not, no attack or insult intended. The news clip......"I repeat, I did not have sexual relations with that woman." The view from Over Here.

Colo  |  July, 11, 2013 at 06:04 PM

I have to agree with Carol. The next time one of you superior-to-thou vegetarians sits down to a big ol' plate of prairie grass (or lawn clippings, whichever's the handiest), let me know how it goes. Your system won't do a very good job of digesting it, plus it'll probably plug up your pipes for a while. A cow can turn that grass into a delicious, protein packed source of iron, zinc, selenium, and vitamin E.

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