Ask Andrew W.K.: Should I Stop Eating Meat?

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[Editor's note: Every week New York City's own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions, and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose or -- no surprise here -- a party. Need his help? Just ask: AskAWK@villagevoice.com]

Dear Andrew,

My girlfriend is a vegetarian, and we've been dating for a year now. I love her a lot, but she hates that I eat meat. Like most Americans, roughly 100% of the plates I put in front of me have a dead animal somewhere on them. Over the course of our relationship, my girl has pretty much convinced me it's unhealthy, both for my body and the environment. The proof is pretty irrefutable, but I can't picture cutting out meat completely, even if I'd like to. A life of not eating tacos, pepperoni pizzas, and cheese burgers is no life for me (yes, I've tried meat substitutes as alternatives, and I hate them). So my question is basic: how do I give up something I know is bad for me and my relationship if I love it so much?

- Meat Eater

See also: All of Andrew W.K.'s past advice.

Dear Meat Eater,

I don't like people telling me what to do, but sometimes it's good to hear people out, especially if they're turning me on to ideas I haven't fully contemplated before. For example, when I was 13, I started dating my first serious long-term girlfriend, and her family introduced me to all sorts of new experiences -- everything from the music of George Clinton to the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. One day, her parents gave me a paperback copy of Dick Gregory's Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat: Cookin' With Mother Nature. The book was a revelation. It completely dazzled me as an amazing piece of writing from a unique man, and it was the first time I'd been presented with deeply coherent ethical and biological reasons for not eating animals.

I read the whole book in one day, and by the next morning, I had become a vegan. Dick Gregory's book was the first time I really fathomed the idea that when I ate steak, I was eating cow's body. And that a grilled chicken sandwich was bird's flesh. And that bacon was pig's meat. Even a glass of cow's milk suddenly seemed completely bizarre and grotesque -- why would I, a human, drink the mother's milk of a totally different beast?

Five years later, I moved to New York City, and due to laziness and cheapness, my daily vegan meals began to decline in quality. On certain days, I'd just three whole containers of plain tofu. Other days might consist spaghetti sauce over cold lentils. Occasionally I'd splurge and eat black bean tacos from the Chinese owned Tex-Mex "Fresco Tortilla" place, or Middle Eastern falafel and hummus from the place next to my work. The food wasn't bad, but I realized if I put in more effort, I wouldn't have had such a boring menu. By that time, I had really forgotten about meat and cheese and eggs to the point where I didn't crave them anymore, but I wasn't exactly having a great time with my food.

After a while, I broke up with my girlfriend and she moved back to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where we were from, and I stayed in New York City. I clearly remember the day I decided to break my vegan diet. At the time, I hadn't really associated it with the end of our relationship, but looking back, that must've been part of my subconscious reasoning -- I guess I wanted to reclaim a version of myself that had existed before her and her family came into my life. So, I went with a friend to a Thai food restaurant and nervously ordered a swordfish steak. I was excited, but also afraid that eating fish flesh would make me sick.

Turned out that the meal was one of the best and most memorable of my life. I gradually began the process of becoming a full blown omnivore once again and haven't stopped since. I had really enjoyed my vegetarian and vegan diets, but I also was amazed to discover that I still loved every single animal product I came across. In fact, I seemed to love it even more.

What was most interesting was that even though I had seen lots of brutal slaughter house video footage, and had researched all the damage that animal products can do to the human body and the environment, it didn't really make me feel bad about eating it -- I actually felt I enjoyed it more passionately. Why didn't I feel guilty? Part of me is still disturbed and mystified that I can engage in something that I once thought was pure evil, and do it with an awareness and sense of glee. I suppose I had accepted and actively embraced my preferences, and since I had more respect for the intensity of what I was actually engaged in, it brought me pleasure.

Even though I didn't raise and kill and prepare the meat myself, I was aware that it didn't magically appear on my plate, and not having that "bad-faith" actually added a level of value and plain awe to the entire meat-eating experience. Eating meat was more intense than ever, especially when I fully fathomed that it's dead animal's flesh that went through all sorts of cruel and unusual steps to reach my mouth as food. As a society, we must embrace our choices if we're going to honestly engage in them. If we love eating meat so much, we must take full responsibility and be willing to deal with all the horrifying and sinister aspects of its production. Even if an animal is raised "ethically" and treated to the finest "free-range" lifestyle before it's slaughtered, we're still engaged in a cycle of death and abuse and waste and damage to ourselves and the planet. It's an undeniable fact that the cattle industry is responsible for more damage to the ozone than just about any other single source. And yet, we must think its worth it if we're still demanding our beef.

We should be honest with ourselves. When we pretend we don't realize that we're eating a dead animal, or we ignore the brutality of the whole process and put it out of mind, that's when we commit our biggest sin. We should take full ownership of what we're doing, not so that we stop enjoying what we consume, but so that we're fully aware and accountable for the repercussions of our actions.

When someone gets an abortion, we don't think, "Oh, the fetus just magically disappeared." When someone is executed on death row, we don't think, "Oh, that inmate just passed away somehow." We realize the violence and the severity of what's really going on. Killing other beings is painful and heavy for everyone, even when it's for a good reason. And killing other beings is painful and spiritually troubling when that "good reason" is hard to pin down. We must wrestle and struggle with these uncomfortable and unnerving thoughts and be brave enough to confront them head on.

In the end, it seems nearly impossible to exist in the world without doing it damage. To create is to destroy, to live is to cause death, to experience pleasure is to cause pain. It becomes a slippery slope -- we live in a world full of rotting darkness and crushing confusion -- just to carve out a moment of happiness and security is a tremendous and fleeting triumph. To think we can live without "doing wrong" is wrong. But we can always strive to do better. Most of all, we must strive to be aware of what we've already done and continue to do.

Your girlfriend shouldn't try to force a particular diet on you, but she has the right to leave you if this no-meat concept is really important to her -- she actually has the right to leave you for any reason she wants. You also have the right to leave her if she tries to tell you what to do and you don't like it. From what you said, you already tried not eating meat and didn't enjoy it. So, now you must face the fact that you might have to choose between your girlfriend and meat. If you do choose meat, and she does leave you, I'll bet you'll end up savoring every bite of that bacon cheese burger even more than before. You better.

Party in good faith,
Andrew W.K.

P.S. Eating meat is bad for you. Smoking is bad for you. Having unprotected sex is bad for you. Doing drugs is bad for you. Using a cell phone is bad for you. Living in a city is bad for you. Being alive is bad for you. But it's worth it.


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36 comments
cayleo
cayleo

P.S. "Everything is not about what is not good for you," said the mamma cow as they took her newborn away and threw him in a baby cow pile.

cayleo
cayleo

P.S. "Everything is not about what is not good for you," said the baby chick before he was ground up alive.

cayleo
cayleo

P.S. "Everything is not about what is not good for you," said the pig stuck in a cage for his entire life right before he literally went insane.

doctorhans
doctorhans

Could also eat *less* meat, like maybe with 50% of meals instead of 100%, and like Andrew says, it will make the experience so much more special and savored and awesome when you do get to do it.

conspiracytheory
conspiracytheory

As mentioned, I think a lot of us know that eating meat is harmful to ourselves and the environment but still continue to do it.  That is why being aware of those consequences and owning your actions is truly the least we can do.  I too remind myself everytime I eat meat (often) what a truly horrific thing it is.  While I still eat and enjoy meat, understanding these things has lead me to find better alternatives and eat healthier in general.

nicolekrystyn
nicolekrystyn

Yikes, this seems like a super sensitive issue for many people out there. I'm friends with many vegans, and the reason why we're still friends is because they don't try to push their diet on me. Just like any other thing in life, what you put in your body is your choice. Sure it could be bad for your health, but you get to make that choice. If OP's girlfriend chooses not to respect that I can't see this relationship lasting. Andrew, you are always on the money.

AndyBee
AndyBee

It is obvious that Meat Eater and his girlfriend of 1 year are incompatible at the dinner table. So either eat your dinners alone or compromise when you eat with her.


Also not to upset Meat Eater, but relationships these days don't last, and she is probably cheating on you behind your back, I would put money on it. 


So enjoy the sex while it lasts and order a pizza afterwards.

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

Don't let someone else dictate who you are, what you can do, what you can eat and control you. 


Meat is tasty tasty murder.  


If you want to eat meat go ahead and eat it.  If you don't want to eat meat then don't. 




goldie.hoffman
goldie.hoffman

What moronic b.s. and a clear example of an an apathetic apologist for a cruel, wasteful and sickening (both figuratively and literally) industry. 


Andrew's "reasonings" just amount to b.s. philosophical mental gymnastics so that he can live on joining the masses in pure complacency because it's just too hard and he's too lazy to do anything else -- only he claims he's different because he knows what ills he's wreaking on the planet and suffering creatures that are tortured; ooh la la, Andrew, you're so evolved. Hey, didn't realize NRA proponents wrote for the Voice, but hey, I guess I haven't been keeping up much.


What a loser; basically according to his own admission, his act of rebellion and self-reclamation against his ex-girlfriend and his breakup was becoming a meat eater again. Fine, if that were just a stage, spurred on by a rough period of self-wallowing and hurt, I could even somewhat understand it, but clearly he never got over it and worse, it intensified.


In other words, Andrew's just become a bitter, complacent being and has given up "striving to be better" -- which although in his philosophical mumbo jumbo, he says we should try to do, at the same time he asserts that in the end, it's all pointless so f- it, let's just be sh**heads and do as we wish. Hey, why not kill that coworker you hate, too, while we're at it, seeing as how "we live in a world full of rotting darkness and crushing confusion." (wow, so profound, by the way...). 


Taking advice from this idiot on veganism or any life matters is like asking the Muslim Brotherhood which belly dancing class I should take. Ridiculous. 

Greta von Otto
Greta von Otto

A recent study claimed that vegetarians die younger than meat eaters. Just sayin"!

jamie.e.peck
jamie.e.peck

Sounds like you need to give meat alternatives another chance! Nobody is allowed to say they hate plant based proteins until they've had Candle 79's seitan picatta or Champs' seitan reuben or Angelica Kitchen's dragon bowl or a Field Roast Italian sausage or a nibble of Dr. Cow cashew cheese or a simple fucking veggie taco from a taco truck in LA....the list goes on.

adrienneelyce
adrienneelyce

Yo. Likening killing an animal or killing an adult human (death row) to abortion is really fucking offensive. That fetus is not capable of feeling pain or processing emotions. Sounds like bullshit anti-choice rhetoric.


It's pretty simple: animals feel pain. They have complex emotions and form bonds with their young. If you participate in their slaughter (dairy and eggs are included in this), you are a piece of shit. Do the right thing. Go vegan. 

BojoMcFly
BojoMcFly

Thanks, Andrew. I really enjoyed the second to last paragraph. "To create is to destroy, to live is to cause death, to experience pleasure is to cause pain." It's strangely comforting knowing the most positive person I know still struggles with moral dilemmas like this. A reminder that we're all in this crazy thing called life together. 

Andrew Creech
Andrew Creech

No one ever stands up to the brutal slaughter of plants these so called peaceful vegans attest to on a daily basis. The world is decay and death, love and beauty, and several other contradictions all rolled together. It's called life. Things need to die in order for others to live. Get the fuck over it. Now pass me the ribeye.

obeytheword
obeytheword

@AndyBee Yeah maybe for you they haven't lasted or people have cheated on you.

 But not everyone has the same experience and issues with dating. So stop projecting your problems onto someone else. 

What a stupid, shallow and frankly sexist point of view to express.

adrienneelyce
adrienneelyce

@whateveryousay  What about the animals in this equation? You're saying don't let someone else make choices for you, but you're completely glossing over their choice to live.

BillM
BillM

@goldie.hoffman What you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

safenders
safenders

A recent study said you should give a reference when citing recent studies. Just saying!! 

Rastapopolis
Rastapopolis

@adrienneelyce Oh cool.  You saw the word 'abortion' and as an expert on the subject that's got you all fired up.  This article isn't about something completely different or anything.  Eat a burger, you get really off topic when you're hungry.  

adrienneelyce
adrienneelyce

Plants are not capable of feeling pain. 


Humans can not only live, but thrive, on a plant-based diet.


Your argument is an incredibly basic and unoriginal way to try to derail a conversation away from actual issues ("slaughter of plants"?? How old are you?). 


The world is life and death and blah blah blah... but you have the opportunity to not contribute to unnecessary suffering. 


Get the fuck over it.

Ron P
Ron P

The day you can prove to me that plants feel fear and pain I'll find a salad bar and start the anti 'plant slaughter' protests

adrienneelyce
adrienneelyce

@Rastapopolis  Right... it is about something completely different... which is why it is offensive to bring up a woman's right to her own body in a discussion of animal suffering. Thanks :)

radzikowski.09
radzikowski.09

@adrienneelyce  Andrew was being facetious when he said the first sentence, can't you tell?

cayleo
cayleo

@whateveryousay @adrienneelyce we have a choice. And those animals that eat other animals do not. They do not torture the animals before they eat them either. So big difference. Think of it this way. If aliens came down to earth and decided we were tasty then caged us, beat us, hung us by our feet before slitting our throats, artificially inseminated us keeping us in small cages and then took our babies and threw them into a pile, well then what would you think about those Aliens? Just choosing are they? I suppose they could all say to one another, well they are animals who eat animals, so we can do the same. It's just natural.





















































sean.winchester
sean.winchester

@whateveryousay While it's true that, in nature, many other animals kill and eat other animals, it's also true that those animals would die if they didn't.  It's all that they know how to do, and so there's no element of choice there.  Hell, their cognitive abilities likely wouldn't even leave room for a choice if they could.  Can't fault them for that.  

Humans differ from this in a very important way:  We can survive and thrive without eating meat, and so we don't eat it out of necessity - our eating meat is a choice.  As humans, we must accept the ethical implications of our decision to have an animal killed for our dinner.  However widespread the choice to eat meat is, however ubiquitous, we still choose to eat it when there is nothing forcing us to.


I applaud Andrew for his call to be aware of this choice to support an industry that kills animals for our pleasure, and to acknowledge the "darkness" inherent in that choice when we make it.  I think, however, that in the face of this darkness we are presented with the opportunity to take responsibility and decide whether we truly want to be a part of it.  Go a step further, I say, and make a choice for the good.  Frankly, we're presented with the opportunity to make it three times a day.


And seriously, folks, the food that didn't come from animals is just as good.

adrienneelyce
adrienneelyce

@Rastapopolis  Abortion "kills" in the same way that using hand sanitizer "kills". An aborted fetus is a clump of cells that does not feel pain. It does not process emotions. It does not form bonds. Animals do. Big fucking difference.

Rastapopolis
Rastapopolis

@adrienneelyce This isn't about animal suffering either.  It's about whether or not the person asking the question should eat meat.  For whatever reason.

Andrew made a comment about killing and about people taking ownership for what they're doing.  Abortion, execution, and eating meat all involve killing regardless of whether or not it is right or wrong or whether or not there was pain and suffering.  Killing and suffering are two very different things.

Maybe he went off topic by bringing these issues up but Andrew broadens his answer by not answering the question directly.  He asks the person asking the question to make up his own mind and take responsibility for his actions.  Regardless of what the issue is and how sensitive people are about it.  Abortion and execution simply add context to his broad answer.

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

@adrienneelyce @whateveryousay  Many of the animals I consume are omnivores themselves.  The food chain lives on.  Humans are part of the eco-system and many animals and birds are carnivorous.  A bear doesn't need to eat salmon but they do. 

adrienneelyce
adrienneelyce

@whateveryousay Wouldn't you prefer to thrive in a way that does not harm other beings thoguh? It's pretty simple... we can live and thrive without taking the lives of thousands of animals. I promise you... any of the "good" you're getting from meat, you can get from plants... usually in higher quantities that don't come along with the suffering and cholesterol. 

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