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Vegetarian Journal 2002 Issue 2

VEGETARIAN JOURNAL'S
2001 ESSAY WINNERS


MAD CORN DISEASE?
A FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE

By Daniel Seeman, 15 yrs
Berkeley, CA

He staggered into the room, weary from his recent journey over the Atlantic, but jovial nonetheless. After exchanging greetings and small talk over hors d'oeuvres, Greg Butler, the 70-year-old director of the International School, took his seat at our table for a true St. Patrick's Day feast. I immediately delved into the corned beef with fixin's with no thought to what I was eating, when I heard Mr. Butler make a somewhat odd comment. "I'm a vegetarian, but I'll have some beef please. . ." he said, the combination of age and British upbringing characterizing his voice. At first I labeled him in my mind as some kind of hippie who didn't eat meat in protest of the treatment of the Sub-Saharan Blue tree squirrel or something. After a moment of thought, however (and seeing him demolish the corned beef faster than I could say, "Mad cow disease"), I realized that Butler was no more vegetarian than I was. He was simply a British vegetarian, meaning that he did not eat meat while in the good ole U of K, but readily devoured a corned beef sandwich once on American soil. His reasoning has nothing to do with culture, ethics, religion, world hunger, or the environment. It is simply a hazard to eat meat in England.

Mad cow disease and foot and mouth disease are only a few of the scourges making it impossible for carnivores to live in the British Isles. A whole host of bugs and viruses are working their way through the farms of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. And even though Greg Butler gets the opportunity to enjoy a hearty steak while he's visiting Uncle Sam, that may not be a safe bet for long. Who's to say that diseases from the UK can't spread all the way over here to America? They've already got trouble over in France and Germany and other European countries. If they've got mad cow, who's to say one of the mad ones didn't wander over to Switzerland, or Italy, or Spain? Who's to say one of them didn't get shipped over to Africa to be bred or slaughtered? Who's to say a contaminated steak didn't reach China or Korea by airplane? And who's to say that filet mignon served in first class on the United flight from Seoul to LA isn't contaminated?

There is no way to ensure that mad cow and other deadly meat diseases do not reach America. Greg Butler may be safe now, but the spread is inevitable. Vegetables may be the only way to go soon. We may be more appreciative of our broccoli burgers and Tofurky, washed down with soymilk. The trick is to foresee this catastrophe, and start stock-piling soy products now, before it's too late.

Before taking my next bite of corned beef, I stared at the sinewy red flesh that I was about to consume, and I saw my life in 25 years after the onset of mad cow disease, and I realized that life as a vegetable (no pun intended), looked rather dim. I decided to take Butler's philosophy to the next level, simply for health reasons. I deliberately laid down the hunk of meat I had skewered on the tip of my fork, and I slowly mouthed eleven syllables I thought I would never utter: "Please pass the cauliflower and lima beans. . . ."


CAMP APPLICATIONS AND VEGETARIANISM

By Crystal Glick, 15 yrs
Lititz, PA

My quest to understand the vegetarian lifestyle began one summer afternoon as I sat at my kitchen table filling out camp applications. The pen in my hand mechanically filled in boxes and blanks as I talked with my mother.

"Oh mom, I'm so excited about camp this year. It's going to be so much fun, a whole week with all my friends!"

FEMALE: yep

GRADE: 11

Mom smiled at me and nodded. "A whole week of no chores, too. No doubt you'll be completely spoiled by the time you get back."

EXTRA CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES: dance, piano, soccer

I put on an innocent look. "Who, me? I'm the girl who loves doing chores!"

CONTACT PERSON IN CASE OF EMERGENCY: Father

"Ha, ha," came the sarcastic reply.

MEDICAL RESTRICTIONS: None

I just grinned. "Oh yeah, mom, I need you to sign your name at the bottom of this paper in a minute. Just let me finish this last question."

Vegetarian, or No Dietary Restrictions?

My pen came to an abrupt halt. "Hey, mom, am I a "vegetarian person" or a "no-dietary-restriction person?"

She walked over to me and thoughtfully looked over my shoulder. "Well, a vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat. That's definitely not what you are."

"They don't eat meat? That's so weird. Why don't they?"

"I don't know much about vegetarians, but Mr. Kelly has been one for as long as I can remember. If you want to know more about it, I'm sure he would be glad to explain everything to you. Why don't you go see him?"

I kind of cringed. Mr. Kelly was our next door neighbor, the type of neighbor I tried to stay away from. Oh, he seemed nice enough, but he was not the most fashion-coordinated person. He was old, with a bushy gray beard, and he had false teeth. His outfits were usually bizarre, like yesterday, when he wore a blue Hawaiian flowered shirt, green striped shorts that were layered on top of a pair of jeans, and a purple bandana tied around his head. One time I even saw him wear two different colored socks. No, Mr. Kelly was definitely not at the top of my "fashion consultants" list. Still, I was curious about this vegetarianism thing. Therefore, I decided to take my mother's advice.

I walked barefoot through our yard and up to Mr. Kelly's porch. He was sitting there, red knee-high socks, orange shorts, straw hat, and lemonade in hand, basking in the sun. "Hey sweetie," his voice cracked. "How's my girl doing?" I always hated how he called me "sweetie" and "girl" like I was a little kid or something.

I forced a smile. "Hi, Mr. Kelly. I was just talking about vegetarianism with my mom, and she said you might be able to answer some of my questions."

"Why, sure. Pull up a chair and have a seat. Now then, what are your questions?"

"Well, I think it's kinda strange that you don't eat meat. Why did you make that decision? And don't you have to eat meat to stay healthy? I mean, how do you get protein?"

"Oh, sweetie, that is a big misconception. You don't have to eat meat to stay healthy. But let me start at the beginning. I was twenty-two when I decided to become a vegetarian. That was . . . now let me see . . . fifty-one years ago. At the time, I had just graduated from college with a major in animal science, and I needed a job. As I searched my hometown, I realized there was no veterinarian clinic; in fact, the closest animal hospital was over sixty miles away. So I decided to open my own animal hospital. You might have heard of it. It's called 'The Animal Kingdom.'"

"You started that?" I gasped. "But, that is one of the biggest and best animal hospitals in the state!"

Mr. Kelly smiled. "Why, thank you. But please, let me continue. It was my love for the animals that made me decide to stop eating meat. I worked almost eighty hours a week trying to save the lives of animals in our town, and it seemed ironic that I would then go home and eat the one that had been purposely killed. Of course, first I carefully researched vegetarianism, and my research only influenced my decision in a positive direction. For instance, you asked how I can get protein without meat. Well, there are several other foods that have just as much protein in them, such as peanut butter, soybeans, and yogurt.

"Health reasons played a big part in my decision. I was amazed when I found out that the vegetarian diet reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes mellitus, and some types of cancer. It also . . . oh my, it's getting hot out here. Would you like a glass of lemonade?"

"Yes, please. So, is everyone a vegetarian for those reasons?"

He poured a glass and handed it to me. "No, of course not. My granddaughter is a vegetarian simply because she thinks that meat looks disgusting, and her best friend is a vegetarian because of religious reasons. Then there is my nephew, who idolizes Madonna and became a vegetarian after finding out that Madonna was one. So you see, everyone has their own reasons for making the decision."

I set my empty lemonade glass on the porch and stood up. "Well, I really should be getting home now. But thank you very much for your time, Mr. Kelly. I'd like to come back again later, and maybe we can talk about this some more. Goodbye!"

Before turning to leave, I paused a moment and grinned at Mr. Kelly. Perhaps, on the outside, he would always be my fashion-inept neighbor. But now I better understood who he was on the inside. Because of his fervent love and compassion for animals, he devoted his life to them. This included not only his work genre, but his eating habits as well. I was surprised to realize that I admired Mr. Kelly.

I walked home and in my front door, sat down at the kitchen table, and pulled the camp application in front of me. I picked up a pen and answered the last question: Vegetarian.



Excerpts from the 2002 Issue 2:


The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone who wishes to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

Thanks to volunteer Stephanie Schueler for converting this article to HTML.



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