You’ll recall how I’ve been writing for my uni’s student mag. It’s some full on proper do-gooding, converting everyone on campus to my splendid way of life and raising issues usually neglected by right-on students such as Fairtrade, vegetarianism, feminism, environmentalism… Oh. Right.
Anyway, the new issue’s theme is love and hate. For those of you whose subscription to the magazine has lapsed, here’s my bit complete with soon to be edited off-colour gags:
This being the love and hate issue, and this also being the do-gooding bit of the mag, I’m looking at something that enflames the emotions of both extremes: vegetarianism. Vegetarians are both loved (by themselves) and hated (by everyone else). I say this as a proud and practising vegetarian myself. Believe me when I say the extreme lifestyle choice on which I have embarked is a constant source of moral contentment, slight embarrassment and massive inconvenience.
On the love side, I love knowing I’m not doing harm to animals. No lambs are being chopped, no cows are being steaked, no chickens are being chickened for me and my dinner. No animals are being raised in painfully cramped conditions for my sake, no animals are being electrocuted and killed from me wanting it, no animals are being skinned for my clothes. I am loving that more than just a bit.
Also on the love side, I love living according to my principles. For years I thought it was cruel to hurt and kill animals for food in the way I thought it was cruel to hunt and kill animals for sport or to torture and kill animals for giving the RSPCA something to do. I thought it was cruel but I kept on eating animals because they were full on proper tasty. Now I don’t, and it feels good to be good about it.
But then there’s the hate side of things, and with vegetarianism it’s not insignificant. First, I hate being associated with militant types who think the ‘Meat is Murder’ T-shirt never went out of fashion, who accuse meat eaters of being hypocrites or worse than Hitler, who sharpen tofu into spears and go about the place stabbing anyone within a three-mile radius of KFC. I’m not up for that at all. I’d like more vegetarians in the world and less cruelty to animals but I’m not looking to get judgmental and self-righteous about it. If you want to eat meat, like I did for the first 25 years of my life, then shine on.
Second, I hate having to put up with PETA. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are like that gobby kid in school who wanted attention and didn’t care if he was getting it from a decent grade or from kicking another kid in the chin; as long as people were looking at him he was chuffed. So while they do cracking undercover investigations on life in the slaughterhouse they also indulge in publicity stunts that make them an easy target for anyone looking to make fun of vegetarianism. More worryingly, they tend to neglect the basics of feminism, having largely female supporters get their kit off and showing an annual ‘State of the Union Undress’ where a female supporter strips while running over their successes from the previous 12 months. It’s a baffling campaign to convert Page 3 fans to vegetarianism while leaving women objectified and feminists of both genders furious.
Lastly, I hate the inconvenience of vegetarianism. When you go out the world is your oyster; when I go out the world is my tomato-based pasta dish. Most restaurants show no interest in the millions of vegetarians we have knocking about the country and tend to offer only a veggie burger, veggie lasagne or something with tomatoes, and stuffed mushrooms appears to be the world’s only legal vegetarian starter. Then there’s the problem of explaining how Parmesan cheese isn’t vegetarian (it’s got rennet from a cow’s stomach in it), how alcohol isn’t always vegetarian (it’s sometimes got isinglass from a fish’s swim bladder in it) or how ice cream isn’t always vegetarian (I can’t even be bothered explaining that one). It’s a massive faff best avoided, which is why I now only leave the house when it’s on fire. I just stay in and cook my own animal-friendly food which, happily, brings us back to the love side of things.
I love the taste of tofu, soya milk, lentils, chick peas, Quorn and everything cooked up by the ghost of Linda McCartney. Actually that’s not entirely true. I hate it. I hate it all. Six years into this vegetarianism lark I still dream about bacon and wake up crying. But there we are. Love it or hate it, this is the life I chose.
For more on vegetarianism and animal rights, visit The Vegetarian Society. For more on meat and animal wrongs, visit your local butcher.
Photo credit: The Zero