AJ's Reviews > The Butcher and the Vegetarian: One Woman's Romp Through a World of Men, Meat, and Moral Crisis

The Butcher and the Vegetarian by Tara Austen Weaver
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's review
Dec 30, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: do-not-own, non-fiction, 2010, memoir-and-biography
Read on May 07, 2010

Cliches are bad, but cliches about veg*ns are about the worst. I've heard them all. You would think, from the reactions omnivores have to veg*ns, that not eating animals is one of the most absurd, strange things that humans have thought up. Veg*ns don't get enough protein, we must be sick, we sneak bacon when nobody is looking, etc.

I guess what I find most annoying about this book is that I really don't know what to make of it. The author weaves many cliches about veg*ns into this narrative, even though she was born and raised a vegetarian and ultimately embraces a (predominantly) animal free diet. The biggest theme is that veg*ns are somehow ascetics, unwilling to enjoy food or life at the expensive of animal rights, health or the environment. It really makes me wonder if Weaver just needed some new recipes, or better veg*n friends who know how to cook.

Most grating were the statements about how eating meat is macho, manly, and how Weaver hoped to join the boy's club of steakhouses and bar-be-cues. I know it's tempting for women to emulate men, after all we're told from a young age that men are better than we are, but I think it's absurd to perpetuate the notion of gendered food. Masculinity is what you make it to be, and I know plenty of men who refrain from eating flesh, and plenty of women who eat a steak without batting an eyelash. Maybe, as Weaver mentioned, it's a west coast thing for women to feel they need to order the salad. It's certainly nothing I ever felt when I ate meat, nor something I've ever noticed being a problem for my female friends who continue to eat meat.

Ultimately, the author explores eating meat because of health issues, which is something that I completely understand. The author explores many avenues of "ethical" meat production, which I think is great for people who can afford it, but not something that will ever be sustainable on a large scale. Weaver continues to call herself a vegetarian throughout the first half of the book, something that any real vegetarian will likely bristle at. It certainly bothered me. By the end of the book she tries the "opposite" of a meat-based diet, going completely raw for a week. She finds that this increases her energy and makes her feel better, which I'm sure veg*ns reading this book will be pleased to hear (I certainly was!).

Even at the very end, Weaver mentions that "meat eaters want to savor the world," which strikes this vegan as a strange sentiment. I'm no ascetic, and as somebody who was born and raised on a flesh diet, I would rather eat a vine ripened tomato than any cured or cooked pig, any day. My dietary options enhance my life, and it's savoriness, and do absolutely nothing to diminish it. I find pleasure in fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and even sweets. I wonder if Weaver actually thinks that this meat-eater-as-hedonist and vegan-as-ascetic dichotomy is true, it's just unfortunate that she perpetuates the ideas in her book for others to absorb as fact.
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05/07/2010 page 1
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message 1: by Elizabeth (new) - added it

Elizabeth Thank you for your well written, thorough, and carefully tought out review... I'm getting annoyed just reading about the myths this book seems to perpetuate. So many non-"veg*ns" are too quick to rationalize animal product consumption. I find it remarkable she found medical professionals that advised her to eat meat, she must not have been eating a balanced plant based diet. Because I've seen two nutritionists who not only gave my vegan diet a stamp of approval, but one said she would copy my sample meal plan for herself. She thought it was healthier than what she ate!

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