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Semi-vegetarians, Flexitarians

BeansAndGreens wrote on Salon.com:

"I'm always amazed when people tell me with a straight face that they are vegetarians because they don't meat eat, only fish -- and sometimes, even chicken!

"There is no definition of vegetarianism, outside of dictionaries found in Bizarro World, in which fish is part of a vegetarian diet."

Tell me about it!

In his Pulitzer Prize nominated Diet for a New America (1987), vegan author John Robbins has a middle-section of black & white photos, saying:

"Animals are interesting creatures, with their own unique kinds of intelligence and beauty...

"When treated well, most kinds of animals are friendly to people. Pigs are as capable of friendship with us as dogs and cats...

"But the animals raised for meat, eggs, and dairy products in the United States today are treated terribly..."

A photo of chickens, hanging upside down, and being slaughtered on a conveyor belt, with the caption reading:

"In fact, some people evidently think chickens are vegetables. When someone says they are a vegetarian, these people say, 'Yes, but you eat chicken don't you?"

The so-called "health" trend of giving up "red meat" began in the late '70s, and became widespread enough that by the early '80s, the term "semi-vegetarian" was coined (in Vegetarian Times, I think), to refer to those still eating chicken and fish.

But in 1990, dining over mock-duck with my friend Atma Khalsa (an American Sikh follower of Yogi Bhajan) at a Thai restaurant in San Diego, I said with amazement that another of our co-workers, Leigh, a semi-vegetarian, with an interest in studying animal care, still hadn't given up chicken and fish!

Far from being a "self-righteous vegetarian," Atma responded that when you consider that few Americans venture from the Standard American Diet (SAD) of meat-and-potatoes, fast-food, etc. Leigh's transition was in itself remarkable. I acknowledged Atma's words.

The next day, when I saw Leigh during the lunch hour at Emerald Systems Corp., she was nibbling on some unleavened crackers, as if my dinner conversation with Atma had been recorded and broadcast everywhere, and as if to imply going veg was someone else's sectarian religious doctrine (the way a lot of liberals look at abortion!) rather than a universal ethic for all mankind: not harming nor killing animals for ethical reasons.

A few years later, I sent Leigh a pamphlet by Keith Akers responding to those who think "vegetarians" can eat fish.

When I visited San Diego in 2002, and caught up with Leigh (she's just a few months older than me), we briefly talked about animal issues, and she was already familiar with veganism ("they already know" sings Avril Lavigne) as well as vegetarianism, as I expressed opposition to imprisoning animals in zoos.

A year later, They Shall Not Hurt or Destroy, my book on religion and animal rights was published (Bruce Friedrich of PETA wrote the preface, and the late Reverend Janet Regina Hyland wrote the foreword), and Leigh was among the first of my friends to receive a copy.

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