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OUT OF SYNCH?

by Keith Akers

Is vegetarianism a social movement? To most of us, it would seem that it is, but it is also different from other social movements. It is not a social movement like civil rights or women's suffrage, because the primary objective of those seeking to promote vegetarianism is not political. One could certainly make political demands on the basis of vegetarianism, e. g. elimination of grazing on public lands or changing the school lunch program. But attitudes towards food are deeper than laws or politics; they are felt literally and figuratively at the "gut level." The goal many of us are hoping foróa vegetarian worldóis very easy to state; yet this simple request, which in theory requires no social or political change, would in fact change everything, and change it so totally that the world we would then live in would scarcely be recognizable to most Americans.

For the people we are trying to reach, thinking about the realities of food can be disconcerting. It's not just the facts that we display about food that are badówe are always so careful about documenting everything. It's not just our presentation which is disturbingówe are always so careful to be polite. It's that the mind rejects ideas which are out of synch with one's behavior. It is incredulous and threatening that something so central to the average person's lifestyle could be so cruel and so wasteful and so unnecessary. Thinking deeply about eating animals without changing one's diet is like whirling around with one's partner in a dance without focusing on the partner's eyes or face: what might be entrancing becames confusing and then nauseous.

Meat-eating is sickening at many levels: it makes us sick if we eat it long enough, but it is also sickening to see, hear, or think about how it is produced. When people look over a precipice or at something unexpected and unpleasant, the reaction occurs at the gut level, not at the level of the intellect. Things which are "out of synch" with our current understanding, that do not fit in with the latest version of reality as publicized on TV and in newspapers, are not so easily understood. "I don't want to think about it," they say, and they're right. And that is our fundamental struggle: not for our own equality, not for our own rights, but simply to persuade people to think about it.

Written in the mid-1990's