TODAY THERE ARE recognized rights for all races and creeds, both sexes, children, senior citizens, gays, veterans, the handicapped and just about every other group known to man. But not for vegetarians. It's time that changed.
Vegetarians are the most discriminated-against group I can think of. We are misunderstood, derided and occasionally attacked by bloodthirsty carnivores. We are turned away from countless restaurants which refuse to serve a meatless entree. We are harassed at dinners and cocktail parties with inane questions about our dietary habits. We are effectively barred from seeking public office because we will not eat chicken dinners. If we weren't so morally superior, it would be almost impossible for us to soldier on.
Carnivores think that all vegetarians look alike, refusing to recognize that we are a diverse lot. In fact, there are four main subgroups of vegetarians:
1. Vegans: Those who eat only vegetables and grains.
2. Ovo-lactos: Those who will eat dairy products in addition to the vegan fare.
3. Pseudo-vegetarians: The largest-growing subgroup, they are also called "fad vegetarians" and "except for" vegetarians. Typically, they eat chicken, or fish, or even red meat, but persist in calling themselves vegetarians. In truth, they are not vegetarians at all, but we accept them for the time being to preserve solidarity in the movement.
Frankly, many in this category are an embarrassment to true-blue vegetarians, and they give us a bad name. They frequently sat stupid things like. "I can't think well when I'm chewing meat," and they can be found in disproportionate numbers in health clubs, in hot tubs and in California (of course).
4. Junk food vegetarians: Members of this subgroup use vegetarianism as an excuse to gorge themselves on cookies, cake, candy and all other forms of sucrose. They are generally unhealthy and, like pseudo-vegetarians, hurt the genuine article's reputation. Whenever a "sugar freak veggie" gets sick or dies young, carnivores cluck and blame it all on vegetarianism. Probably the most humane and image-wise thing for real vegetarians to do is to open up a kind of "methadone clinic" for our sugarized brothers and sisters, to help them go cold turkey (just an expression).
Whatever our subgroup identities, we are united in declaring that we are sick and tired of being kicked around by carnivores. (Actually, you nonvegetarians are omnivores, but that term has no edge to it. Cheer up, though; we could call you "flesh eaters.")
If reform is not forthcoming, there will be a revolution up ahead, and you may not like the culinary curriculum at our reeducation camps. Far better for you to accede now to our nonnegotiable demands:
1. An eggplant in every pot. (It's cheaper than chicken.)
2. At least one vegetarian entree on every menu in America, hot dog stands exempted. (Most hot dogs today have little meat in them anyway.)
3. Vegetarians cannot be asked the question, "Why are you a vegetarian?" at more than one dinner in three and one cocktail party in five.
4. On the political "chicken and peas" circuit, the chicken must be made optional.
5. Vegetarians must be recognized as an official minority group and given all privileges due us under broadly construed affirmative action guidelines, including:
(a) our own categorical grant-in-aid;
(b) a bureau in the Agriculture Department:
(c) our fair share of court appointments:
(d) an hour with David Stockman, an Oval Office meeting with the president and a White House staff assistant for vegetarians;
(e) three quips a month in Johnny Carson's monologue and at least one full Donahue show;
(f) our own paragraph in each party's national platform;
(g) a reserved quota of delegate seats at the 1984 Democratic National Convention;
(h) guaranteed tenure on the faculties of all major universities.
We call upon Congress to act NOW. We demand this Vegetarian Bill of Rights as a first step toward righting the wrongs of generations of callous, carnivorous neglect.
To attain our modest goals, we pledge to take a "carrot (or rutabaga) and stick" approach. To the Democrats, we offer the names and addresses of millions of devoted vegetarians, so that they can finally start a decent direct mail program and begin to win elections again. For the Republicans, we promise all the rutabagas they can eat. (It is a proven fact that Republicans consume three-quarters of all the rutabagas grown in America; the other quarter is thrown away.)
On the other hand, serious consequences will flow from you failure to act. We are a pacific people, but our legitimate rights cannot be denied forever. You would be wise to act quickly, before we are forced to take hostages. Or form a Veggie-PAC.