I’ve always been a classic omnivore with a leaning towards chocolate. That means I’d eat anything from a green salad to black pudding to a juicy steak to a Linda McCartney pie to any chocolate bar ever made. Although given the choice I’d definitely pick the chocolate.
I’ve also never been under any illusion that the neatly packaged meat I buy in a butchers or a supermarket was once a living, breathing, thinking creature and it was killed so that I could eat it. I’m rather fond of fly fishing so have killed, gutted, cooked and eaten many a fish over the years. The same with various other animals. So I’ve always been keenly aware of the industry that is breeding sentient animals purely to slaughter them and feed us. That bothered me, particularly the poor treatment of the animals, so my wife and I made sure we only ate free range egg (and real free range, not simply chickens that live in a larger cage all their life, ones that get to roam around outside) and bought only locally sourced meat that we could see in the fields around where we live.
Then around 6 months ago my wife suggested when we ate all the meat in our freezer we should try going vegetarian. I said “let’s do it” and so it began. Here’s what I expected to happen:
- I would have a bad stomach for a while as my body got used to no longer eating meat
- I would struggle with eating boring salads all the time – I loathe broccoli for example
- When dining out I would have to get used to eating bland nut roasts as the only vegetarian option
- I’d miss eating fish (having grown up on the east coast of Scotland I’ve always loved various types of fish and shellfish)
- As I play football and do weight training the lack of amino acids and protein would make me feel weaker over time and my fitness levels would drop off
- I would very much miss bacon and the smell of it would ultimately tempt me back to eating meat again
However none of the above have turned out to be the true. While my wife gave up after a couple of weeks (without going into details, it did not agree with her digestive system) I’ve found going vegetarian a complete nonevent. In fact I feel better than I’ve ever felt, fitter than before and while I now eat more than I did previously, I think more about what I do eat and so pick healthier options. Oh, and I still eat chocolate.
What I have been surprised by are the following:
- Virtually everyone I inform I’m a vegetarian assume I still eat fish. News flash: FISH IS MEAT TOO!
- A good percentage of my friends feel the need to try and tempt me back to eating meat as though it’s some sort of club to which I really should belong – the primary argument is that “meat tastes great”, but most people have the palate sophistication of a burger-eating teenager so are no experts on taste!
- I don’t miss eating meat at all and haven’t had a single craving to eat any. Given that I spent 39 years eating the stuff I expected to struggle giving it up. If I had to give up chocolate I know for a fact I’d be crying myself to sleep at night!
- As soon as you stop thinking “ok, let’s make this meal but replace the meat with some veg” and start thinking “let’s make a delicious meal” it turns out there are loads of tasty options out there
- I actually feel a sense of relief that I’m no longer a part of the meat industry and no animal is slaughtered so that I might eat it
It’s that last point that’s surprised me the most. By not eating meat I’ve had a chance to reflect on why we humans eat meat. Why we’ve turned the production of meat into an industrial process hidden away from public view to the point where a great number of people don’t associate a chicken breast in a supermarket with a chicken walking around a field. It’s a dirty secret we don’t seem to want to acknowledge and I was no different.
I think it rather sad that a technologically advanced species with its sights set on interplanetary travel still has as its primary food source living creatures that are bred, grown and killed. Take bacon. It’s no secret that I love my dog and dogs are intelligent, social creatures capable of recognising human emotions and I would never consider eating one. Yet pigs are as intelligent and social as dogs – arguably more so – but they’re food for a group of even more intelligent animals (us). That’s not tackling the fact that if population growth continues as it’s projected to do then farming animals is completely unsustainable. Not that us humans think further than 5-10 years in the future.
In the unlikely event that an alien species was to cross the chasm of space and visit us on Earth I would be very disappointed if their spaceship had a compartment containing animals they used as food for their vast journey. Surely they’d have left that behind aeons ago.
But one thing that hasn’t happened is developing a burning desire to stop other people eating meat. Heck, you can eat what you like! But me? I don’t see any reason to go back. So I guess that makes me a vegetarian. And I feel a lot better for it on many levels. Much to my surprise.