Harvard | July 26, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Why I’m a Republican Vegetarian

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“How can you be a Republican vegetarian?” It’s a question I get asked a lot. And since the two do not seem that discordant to me, I find it difficult to answer. It’s like trying to answer “Why are you an arachnophobic Jew?” I hate spiders and I was bat-mitzvahed. By the way, I also like fiscal responsibility and garden burgers.

So I am a “vegublican”, a conservivore, if you will, and I find the two not hard to reconcile. Nevertheless, I will do my best to explain just how I combine the two.

I am a Republican vegetarian because as a conservative, I believe in limited government. A key component in limiting government is avoiding paternalism, which, simply put, is the government imposing a certain moral standard. The government is good for a few things, but few would say it’s the exemplar of morality, much less its chief architect. So I separate moral and political issues as best I can. Since I am a vegetarian for moral reasons, among many other reasons, I can distinguish between the morality in my eating habits and the logic of my voting habits. But try to explain that to the bemused caterer at a Republican dinner function.

I am also a Republican vegetarian because I believe in capitalism and the power to vote with our dollars. A while back I began reading about the meat industry’s environmental impact and was surprised to learn that it accounts for 18 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Shortly thereafter, I chose to become a vegetarian. It is a free market solution to a public problem. Moreover, it appears to be working well already. The relatively recent widespread dissemination of information about the environmental, economic, and health benefits of vegetarianism has led to a steady profit decline of about 12 percent annually in the beef industry.

Most importantly, conservatives and vegetarians share a respect for willpower, self-restraint, and delayed gratification. Vegetarianism is not always easy. Far from it, I still have to avert my gaze when my dining hall serves popcorn chicken. But we all makes choices in life, and conservivores believe in occasionally having to tighten the belt for a higher cause.

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