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For a long time, thanks to being flatmates with a vegan, I’ve thought more and more about eating meat and whether it’s right or wrong. I don’t know if she realises how big an influence she has been on me.
I already bought free-range chicken and eggs; I switched to outdoor-bred pork when it became available and, more recently, organic milk. I know animals are still being killed, but I liked to imagine a more idyllic existence for them while they were alive.
I felt hypocritical eating some animals but not others: what makes it right to eat a cow but not a horse in UK culture? Is it ok to eat baby animals or should we limit our intake to adult animals only? Why don’t we eat carnivores or omnivores; why only herbivores?
There’s a lot of people on the planet, and they all have to eat to survive. Is there enough food to feed them all?
A while ago, I bought a slow-cooker. It was great for making pulled pork and lamb. As Colin savoured the tender meat, it felt fibrous and stringy to me. And sometimes, you don’t know what’s in there, and I’m not just talking about a bit of gristle in a shop-bought pie. I found I was going off meat.
Cutting out meat
Over the summer, I started buying meat alternatives, like Quorn and Vivera, for some meals. Colin wasn’t averse to these — in fact he particularly enjoys the Vivera products — so I bought more of them and less meat products. I came to a point where I couldn’t face the meat products any more and preferred to eat the fake meat ones instead. At this point, I declared to Colin that I wasn’t going to eat meat or honey any more. I know in some multi-culinary households, they cook separate meals for each person, but ours isn’t one those. I’m not sure how I feel about even touching meat now. He was fine with this, as long as I’d keep buying Vivera. That’s an easy deal to keep.
We had a lot of meaty stuff in the fridge and freezer. It became Colin’s mission to finish them off. For a while, we were eating separate meals: he’d have the mystery meat from the freezer and I’d eat something else. At this point, I have no idea what that was. When we ran out of mystery meat products in the fridge and freezer, we started eating veggie food all the time at home together. When we eat out, I eat whatever vegetarian stuff I can find on the menu; Colin has something with real meat in it. I suppose you could call him a flexitarian.
I went to a barbecue, and told my friends I was now vegetarian. A man who was sitting with us said he was sorry.
“I’m not,” I told him.
He said he was joking; I had understood that, but it was funny in the same way that sexist jokes are funny.
My vegetarian and vegan friends, including my afore-mentioned flatmate, are delighted.
My family think I’m awkward, but that’s because they have to buy and cook separate food for me when I visit. But they do accommodate me, and I’m grateful for that.
Dedicated plant-based recipes
Colin asked me, when it became clear I wouldn’t be cooking meat anymore, what we would eat at Christmas. He loves Christmas food, especially party food. I thought this was a good question, so I went on Amazon, and discovered a soon-to-be-released recipe book, Vegan Christmas by Gaz Oakley, which I pre-ordered. Looking through it, there are quite a few pages of party food in there, so he’ll not go hungry.
I’ve bought another book, BOSH! by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby. It contains a variety of meals to make for during the week or for special occasions. I gather BOSH! is quite the thing on the plant-based diet internet. I’m late to the BOSH! party: I only came across it recently when looking for recipe books. My afore-mentioned vegan flatmate recommended it to me.
I have, for a long time, thought of vegetarianism as hypocritical. Veganism is a stance that, as far as I can see, isn’t hypocritical: don’t eat or use any animal products or by-products, and don’t cause animals any unnecessary suffering. This puts animals on an equal footing with humans. This has independently crossed my mind before. It seems to me it’s religion, specifically the Old Testament of the Bible, that states that humans have ‘dominion’ over animals and that we can eat them. Whether you’re religious or not, humans are animals and we evolved just like any other species on this planet. So why are our lives more important than any other animal’s?
I never realised before that eating meat was hypocritical: you believe eating meat is ok so you do it. However, I don’t think I could actually kill an animal myself for food. I find images of dying fish on fishing boats upsetting. People are happy to eat this animal but not that one — why? Eating meat does seem hypocritical after all.
As a vegetarian, I feel I am still a hypocrite because of the mistreatment, including the killing, of animals in the dairy and egg industries. Why is it ok to eat animal by-products if not the animals themselves? I’ve also known vegetarians who wear leather, which doesn’t seem right to me. I have few leather items, which I may or may not wear or use again, but I won’t be buying any more. I’ve also cut out honey and won’t be buying any new bee products.
Despite my misgivings about eggs and dairy, I feel a lot happier eating a mainly plant-based diet. I’m also excited by the new vegetarian and vegan foods that are cropping up all the time. And by Christmas, I might even be vegan. Watch this space.