Ever since I was a little girl and learned that I was eating animals when I ate meat, I have experienced an inner conflict. I couldn't eat chicken without thinking about my pet bird and was horrified when I went to college in Italy and realized I was eating rabbit (I brought an Italian dictionary to the cafeteria and learned I was also eating tripe). As I grew older, I gradually found myself eating less and less meat and now I don't eat meat at all, which seems to "fit" better with my inner belief system.
One day early in my marriage I was having a philosophical conversation with a friend about eating meat and mentioned that I can't buy meat that looks like an animal (with bones, wings, etc). It made me physically ill. I remember saying that if I had to kill an animal for survival, then I didn't think I would be able to. He looked at me and said, "Then I guess it is OK if someone else does the killing?" That conversation haunted me for many years to come. I began cooking less and less meat. I also learned delicious ways to prepare vegetables from my (then) mother-in-law who was born in Italy. They were often too poor to buy meat.
Finally, I came to peace with myself about this issue and chose not to eat anything that I wouldn't be able to kill myself. I eat eggs because they are not fertilized and I eat other dairy products. I eat fish because I grew up fishing and cleaning fish with my father. I think I could do that if I had to.
This has been a life-long process for me and no one should pass judgment on people who choose to eat meat or a different kind of diet. Everyone does this according to what they have learned and lived and what they have come to believe (if they give it any thought). I try not to be a fanatic and occasionally will eat meat not to offend a particular host or hostess. Most people are aware of my preference because I am not ashamed of my choices.
The few times I have eaten meat in the past 10 years I find that my digestive system can no longer tolerate it very well (especially beef). A friend "surprised" me with a beef barbecue for lunch a few months ago and I ate some of it because I didn't want to hurt her feelings. My stomach was not the same for about 2 weeks.
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