On December 18 I spent the afternoon volunteering at Loblaws for Second Harvest’s Turkey Drive. Second Harvest is a Canadian charity that recovers excess food from restaurants and redistributes it to social-service agencies. This was my second time participating in this event, and this year it really hit home as I was laid off from my full-time job, which made it even more important to help out. Perspective is everything.
And so I donned a Santa hat, grabbed some fliers, and worked up a short and cheerful spiel to say to customers who came to the frozen-turkey case. All smiles and positivity, I spoke to many people who no doubt have been inundated with appeals for donations. Many generous folks bought birds that afternoon (263 in total) ranging in price from $13 to $50. A lot of bellies will be filled this coming Christmas.
Despite what some may think, there was no particular type of person who donated: young, old, tidy, sloppy, male, female, singletons, families–they all opened their wallets to help others.
There was, however, one exception: vegetarians. It’s not like I knew they were coming, as if they had an Xed-out cow tattooed on their forehead. Rather, when I approached they announced their dietary choice loud and clear, “I don’t eat meat!” “I’m a vegetarian!”
Clearly, we’d crossed wires. My spiel, “Hi! I’m from Second Harvest’s Turkey Drive. Would you like to donate a turkey to feed Toronto’s hungry,” lacked pertinent details. The bird wasn’t for the giver, it was for other people. Ok, I readjusted and provided options.
“Oh, but the turkey isn’t for you. You simply buy it to feed those in need.”
“I’m a VEGETARIAN!”
“Ok, well, perhaps you’d like to consider an online cash donation. Here’s the website...,” I beseeched in vain as they walked past.
I wasn’t the only person who noticed. My comrade in wings, so to speak, encountered this resistance too. “What’s that all about?” he whispered, “It’s not like they have to eat it!”
Just to be clear, I stopped eating meat for two years once upon a time. For many reasons, I reclaimed my omnivore status and have never looked back. And for just as many reasons, others remain stalwart. Very well, I can respect that. Different strokes. More bacon for me.
But why must one’s personal and voluntary dietary restriction prohibit giving food to those whose “dietary restriction” is involuntary? I can’t believe that people think animal rights come before those of a person who must choose between rent and food. Or do some tofu-munchers feel the moral imperative to impose their wishes on those with few choices? I certainly hope not.
I often hear the argument that a vegetarian diet is cheaper than one that includes meat. That may well be true. There are many poor people around the world who don’t eat meat. What’s also true, however (Hindus aside), is that meat consumption in many emerging economies has gone up with increased income. This leads me to believe that poor people would likely eat more meat if and when they could afford it.
Ah, but who knows what those individual vegetarians were thinking; it matters not. I can only hope that they dropped some non-perishable food in the Daily Bread Food Bank bin or wrote a cheque. People in this city, and elsewhere, needn’t go hungry. That is the true moral imperative.