I’m Vegetarian. I just ate meat.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Mar 11, 2011
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If you’re vegetarian, and you’re served meat by accident, what do you do? Comment below if so inspired.

A conversation:

“Meat isn’t the problem. Killing is the problem. If it’s already happened, respect the animal that’s given its life by not throwing it away.” ~ Mathew Gerson

Just do not add to the supply/demand chain. ~ Waylon Lewis

It begs the question: is this about you not wanting to eat meat…or about wanting to protect the life and prevent the harm or suffering of a sentient being? I personally think there’s something sacred in the exchange of life forms.” ~ Mathew.


The idea behind vegetarianism is to prevent harm.

I’m at Natural Products Expo West. I just ate a meat burrito, by accident, a sample given to our elephant team. They’re vegetarian burritos, we thought. But my friend Mathew just bit into one and said, this is chicken. I said, no way. I looked at mine. Yup, that’s chicken. Oh well, I said: it’s dead already.

I don’t like eating animals. I don’t like eating meat. But I’m vegetarian to save animals. If they’re already dead and I’m not ordering meat, adding to the wheel of supply and demand, I sure as hell am not gonna throw out the flesh of an animal that, unwillingly at that, died for my unwanted pleasure.


A year ago, I was eating at one of my fave “eco-responsible” restaurants, and ordered a salad. It came with chicken, though it wasn’t listed on the menu (!?!?!). They apologized profusely, and went to take it back. I asked what they’d do with it.

Throw it out, I’m afraid.

I’ll eat it, I said. I tried, but ended up only eating the salad. The flesh felt, and tasted, like flesh: like the meat on a sentient being. I couldn’t do it. But I tried, and I tried not out of desire, but respect.


What do you do, vegetarians and vegans, if served meat accidentally?


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


36 Responses to “I’m Vegetarian. I just ate meat.”

  1. kiko says:

    this happened to me in a restaurant. i informed the owner of what happened. i asked for a meatless meal, and i was promised to have it. ah, the food they served me had small pieces of meat. i could taste the meat even if it was hidden. i got my money back as i gently–compassionately–left the restaurant.

  2. rachel says:

    Between me and my friends there's a load of people in the service industry, including upscale catering. Often times my vegetarian friends would take home the leftover meat to eat and say it was in respect to the animal. Once I asked my teacher what she thought and she said if you really respect the animal then bury it. I thought. yeah. wow. bury it. with respect.

  3. CJB says:

    I return it with an emphatic explanation that I am vegan. Restaurants have to learn that "no meat" means "NO MEAT!"

  4. dan says:

    I had the same experience with a burrito too, I even tried to vomit 🙂 but realizing pretty quickly how silly that was. Give it away if you can, like to a dog or something. I know a dog that eats salad and paper towels. (:

  5. Diane D'Angelo says:

    What I find interesting here is the attachment to perfectionism — do we all have it? A dear teacher of mine used to say, "Don't be so spiritual you're no earthly good."

  6. Stacy Hay says:

    The best way to avoid situations like this is to eat at home. Every meal is perfect at home for vegans! 😉

  7. pishispractice says:

    I think its also a matter of keeping my body clean and free from dead animal products, thus I would never consume flesh even if it is served to me by mistake. Eating an animal killed in violence does not contribute to my search for a higher conciousness. I agree eating at home is the best way to avoid this situation.

  8. NotSoSure says:

    Like all vegans, I read the item description from the menu. I always, without exception, send back food with hidden animal products. Always. I feel it is the responsibility of the restaurant to accurately describe the food being offered. And I avoid eateries who I know lace their food with animal products and whose menus cannot be trusted.

  9. elephantjournal says:

    Love it. Don't waste.

  10. elephantjournal says:


    Francisco C some restaurants say they have vegan meals…but i discover that at times they put in meat somewhere here or there…..

    elephantjournal.com Yah. I ate miso soup at a fave restaurant for yeeears until a friend waitress told me they put fish flakes in it. ~ W

    Francisco C Castro at times people think that vegetarianism does not get rid of sea food.

    Rick Gilbert; Miso is usually made with dashi, right? Which is usually konbu and bonito flake-is there a vegetarian dashi? Konbu by itself? Seems a bit lacking. Maybe add some mushroom stock?

    Rachel Hiltsley the pasta i've been eating for months, they told me was vegan, it has eggs in it.

    Alec A I travel some, and I have been in the situation where I have had to eat flesh, or insult my host. I eat a token amount then focus on the veggies. I don't like the taste of meat at all… What can one do. Even the Buddha eat meat when it was given to him.

  11. Meg says:

    At one of my most loved local restaurants, they make these Swiss breakfast potatoes – basically shredded potatoes with a bit of cream, baked into a little cake. I ate them on 2 separate occasions and loved them. The last time I ordered them, I noticed some pink bits mixed in. When i asked the waitress if it was bacon, she said yes. Turns out there was ALWAYS bacon in them – somehow I never noticed. I told her that they really shouldn't sneak meat into what is obviously a vegetable dish – it should be at least listed on the menu that it contains bacon. She apologized. I didn't send them back, but I didn't eat them either. They just sat on my plate and eventually they were thrown out. I hate the idea of meat being wasted, but it happens A LOT. I'm not going to eat it and compromise my beliefs just to avoid a dollars worth of bacon being tossed out. The really egregious part of the story is that restaurants still sneak meat into vegetable dishes, soups, etc. without even listing it on the menu. Unfortunately, the more we vegetarians speak up (to waitresses, chefs, owners, etc.), the more they'll recognize that the tide is turning.

  12. Katherine says:

    I try to pick it out or eat around it if I can. I generally don't like making a scene (although it is hard to deal with "certain" mistakes) so I do everything I can to not offend. It's hard sometimes because some people just want to be upset about it no matter what you do or say.

  13. Rosa says:

    I guess it depends on the reasons why you became a vegetarian.

    If you don’t like the TASTE of meat then sure, send it back the same way you’d and back something unpalatable.
    If you became a vegetarian out of ethical concerns then more ethical concerns arise when restaurants mislabel vegetarian items or try to “deceive” their vegetarian patrons. And whatare the ethics of unknowingly eating meat?
    Ifyou became a vegetarian because of ahimsa…the situation is even trickier. Is it more violent to go into self-righteous mode and demand they apologize or change your plate, etc? Or even refuse the food you’re being lovingly offered at a family/friend’s house? Then I guess you could weigh what option is less harmful.

  14. Hanu Yoga says:

    I would never dream of eating meat. I would either send it back, or take it for my dog. Vegetarians who eat meat… you’re not vegetarian. I knew a girl who told me she was a vegetarian, while she was eating veal. She got really angry when I told her she wasn’t veggie. Anyway – that’s slightly off point.

    I believe that it is disgusting to exploit animals. I would never consider eating another person, so why would I consider eating a fellow inhabitant of the earth? I don’t need it in my diet (like a canivore does), so it’s unnecessary and arrogant to eat it; assuming you can eat whoever/ whatever you want because you’re a human. Horrid idea.

  15. CSinDC says:

    One option (depending on where you are) could be to have the restaurant bring you a replacement dish, and if you ask them if they are going to throw out the meat dish, and they confirm they are, ask them if you can take it to go. I know here in DC (and when I lived in San Francisco) there are plenty of homeless people who gratefully accept restaurant to go meals.

  16. Lee says:

    Good idea

  17. Blake says:

    Take an omnivore and have him/her eat the meat bits. I will gladly volunteer my services! Your treat of course!

  18. ARCreated says:

    awesome!!!! I am sooooo adopting that line…

  19. ARCreated says:

    I don't like waste…period. I haven't had many mistakes but I am not going to say throw out a whole salad becuase it has a little cheese on it… I don't see how sending back a meal and wasting food serves anybody and not the animal. bury it? now it's still a waste. bless the food, feel blessed that your life is so easy you have a choice. I ask a lot of questions and do my damndest to make sure I get vegan food…but if a genuine mistake is made I'm not going cause a huge stink or waste anything if I can….I'm having doubts about veganism anyway so maybe I'm not the best person to ask 😛 after nearly two years of strict veganism…I'm just not sure it's physically or environmentally the healthiest way to live…but I'm still working on it…still trying to work it…I love how I feel emotionally and spiritually but not so much physically (and yeah jamie I've been wondering about the sex drive thing…)

  20. ARCreated says:

    ps I also try to avoid palm oil, soy and non organic food…I also try to by locally grown/produced food…my supplement list though just gets longer and longer…and that just doesn't seem right to me

  21. elephantjournal says:

    Paul Wilcox thats silly, very few meat eaters kill there food, either eat meat or dont.

    Donna Trainer yeah, this doesn't really make sense-I don't know too many people who actually hunt and kill their dinner.

    Francisco C Castro vegetarianism is an affirmation of our place in the universe. human teeth are "designed" for veggie and not meat. as for cultures/societies OBLIGED to eat meat due to absence of greens (like up the Tibetan plateau), meat eating is not a MacDonald Hamburger obsession. Surely people there have a high respect for animals

    Lori Pinzer Many people "kill". Each time you eat a hamburger, each time you trap a mouse, each time you buy a leather coat or a car with leather seats…you are directly responsible for death. This is what the quote means> Being vegetarian is more than just what you eat, it is about the choices you make and how you choose to live.

    Paul Wilcox Its all where you wanna draw the line , everything on earth eats other things to survive, its a wacky world.

    Lori Pinzer I respectfully disagree, Paul…not everything eats other creatures to survive…for the last 24 years I have been an example of that, and will be for the rest of my life…as have millions of people who are vegetarian or vegan. As have millions of herbivore creatures, as well.

    Tee Love Interesting, I have never heard of this POV.

    Sandi Burden I choose to not consume animals to reduce the amount of suffering I cause in the world. If I'm accidently served meat at at someone's home, I will consume it, quietly. It's disrespectful of the animal who has already given its life for me not to eat it. I'm also not going to be "that vegetarian" who creates a big fuss about it….thus causing more suffering to the humans around me.

    Thais G. this article really speaks to me. now when people question why i continue to eat the meat that was served to me on accident i have a way of explaining myself. thank you!

    Blossom Hester Dawes This is a reasonable argument- not wanting to waste. I am so sensitive about the very idea of eating animals that it freaks me out. I gave up eating at one of my favorite restaurants after getting little bits of meat in my tofu twice.

    Blossom Hester Dawes I appreciate everyone who gives up meat even though they might like it! I realize it is easy for me- I really don't want it.

    elephantjournal.com Read the article before commenting, first few people! Thanks, friends. ~ Waylon

  22. elephantjournal says:

    Perfectly simple solution. It's a deal! ~ W.

  23. Ramesh says:

    We continue to do what our conditioning will lead us to do 🙂 And we will construct yogic stories to justify whatever we will be doing. We are really not interested in Truth or Reality or anything of the sort, we just want to pacify ourselves, want others to like us etc… etc… we will do anything and cling to any story that will keep our minds comfortable, our egos well stroked … Why worry about being vegetarian or not in the first place, why do you care about what non-meat eaters think of you?

  24. Jacqueline says:

    I decided to become a vegetarian as a child. I grew up with my meat at every meal family and tried to eat as little of the meat served at each meal. At 16 I became a very unhealthy vegan as I didn't know much about nutrition and the vegan choices not abundant in the 1980s. I found out I was very anemic when I took a blood test for my job. My Mom took me home and fed me meat till my blood count went back up. I also had to eat meat again on Doctors orders after the birth of my third child due to a postpartum hemorrhage. The blood supply was still not safe at the time so I refused a transfusion. Any way I guess sometimes even if we don't want to we will eat some meat. I think as long as you try to be a vegetarian you are already helping the planet. I also would not throw away the food if I did not want to eat it because waste is not good… I live with my complicated family. We are a mix of vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian & gluten-free, soy-free omnivores. (plus many cats and dogs) So there is always someone or something that can eat it. We are all on our own path.

  25. Karli says:

    Usually I give it to my non-veggie sister. She's happy to help me out and get free food! : )

  26. […] pizzas, p.b. and j. sandwiches, etc. I took a break from what would be a 20 year foray into vegetarianism and ate fish. I learned the hard way not to clean my plate of all the food, or they would think I wanted more […]

  27. […] and health circles about what type of diet is the “best” for one and for all. Whether to be vegetarian or not is perhaps the hottest topic within this genre. I’m not going to get into that here, but […]

  28. Ann says:

    Cream is not a vegetable! It was stolen from a baby cow who was stolen from his mom and then sent to be veal. Bacon… cream… 6 of 1, half dozen of the other. Suffering is suffering, whether it’s caused by eating flesh or drinking nonhuman animal milk.

  29. Andrea says:

    You can justify just about anything I suppose. Veganism is an eating disorder? Right. It's so insane to have compassion for all living creatures. It makes a lot more sense to participate in the systemic torture of sensitive animals and the destruction of the environment. Whatever gets you through the night.

  30. […] I didn’t become a vegetarian for the animals. That would be compassionate. I was selfish. I didn’t do it for our mother earth who is crying and dying and screaming out as factory farming and Big Ag so recklessly and inhumanely destroy our planet and its ecosystems. That would be respectable. […]

  31. karen says:

    I give it to my husband who is also a vegetarian but can , unlike me , eat it. He does so out of respect. The next thing I would do is take it and give it to my pups.

  32. Ooooh – what a great recipe for eating your veggies! Sounds delicious!

  33. maya says:

    i'm vegan and always confirm before i order something in a restaurant, even if the ingredients listed are all vegan, just to be sure. and I've found that sometimes places change ingredients without warning so I've taken to reconfirming, just to be sure. in the very rare case that somebody serves me something with meat in it, i'll bring it home to my non-vegan husband or package it up and give it to someone else who is hungry. (since i live in a big city, there are always people on the street who will take it.) i've been vegetarian for most of my 50+ years and vegan for the last few and eating any kind of flesh is unthinkable to me. but throwing it out is even worst. given the choice between tossing and eating, i'd choose eating it, with gratitude toward the life that was taken.

  34. marisa says:

    This happened to me once, I ordered a bowl of miso with no fish cake, but instead they put in a chunk of pork. Yuck, I just sent it back and didn't reorder. Now, I when I order something, I always look first. Even if it's a burrito.

  35. Magoly says:

    My daughter, age 22, is vegan. 12 years. It is her love of animals. Whether it is seafood, poultry or meat, on her plate it is morally equivalent to eating a human. Two days ago at Chicago O’Hare, she ordered two mushroom empanadas. They served her meat empanadas, and she ate one before she realized. When we got to CR on vacation, she spent he entire first night throwing up. Today, we had a nice day. Stopped for dInner at a nice restaurant. She told them she was vegan. We were very careful in ordering. They accidentally served us salmon spring rolls. Which we did not know until after we ate them and they then delivered what we ordered. Tears down her face. The dinner was over, even though we had untouched dishes, beverages, etc. The drive back to the hotel, my daughter became hysterical and directed her anger at me. Although I understand that perhaps I am a safe outlet for her rage at the unfairness of these events, it feels awful. People take vegetarianism lightly but it is a serious matter. It goes to one’s integrity. Mistakes have consequences. I think non-vegetarians often take it as lifestyle choice, somewhat amusing and odd. I wish they understood better the pain these mistakes cause.

  36. Anon says:

    I had a health issue and had to give up meat, I was not happy about that. However, one day someone said to me, I don't eat anything that has a face. Since then, I become sick to my stomach even at the thought of eating meat. I've not eaten meat in over 10 years. In December, after asking a deli girl if a particular deli salad had meat, she said no, no meat and offered me a sample. It tasted ok so I ordered some to take home. As I was putting it in the fridge, I thought I'd look at how much it cost and noticed the printed price included the ingredients bacon. I called the store and suggested that they explain to this girl the importance of knowing what she is saying. The assistant manager apologized and said he would talk with her. When I explained that I didn't want to have to drive 5 miles for a $3 refund, he said he'd mail out a gift card to me for my trouble. To make a long story short, I had to call the assistant manager 3 more times over a 6 week period as I hadn't received the gift card. First time, "he sent it" not sure why I didn't receive it, the 2nd & 3rd time he said he misplaced my address. It was obvious he never sent anything. The last time I called, I said, I really don't think you are taking this very serious, do you understand the importance of not serving meat to a vegetarian, and that maybe I should consider talking with the store manager? He said, no, he really did understand and that he really just can't find my address (again). I gave him the address and about 3 days later I received the gift card….the gift card was for $5. It is obvious that the importance of matters like these are not taken seriously.