Unrooting the vegetarian within
I’ve always had a somewhat ambivalent attitude towards vegetarians – they make dinner parties complicated after all – whilst in theory supporting their cause. So, although I find the meat industry indefensibly and unnecessarily barbaric, it’s sometimes no more so than the vegetarian options on many a restaurant menu.
Defense #1 – I’m a foodie
My primary defense has always been that – Hey! I’m a foodie! I live to eat and experience the world’s gastronomical delights, so how can I be expected to deny myself those carnivorous pleasures. I enjoy liver, kidneys and black pudding. If I’m ordering steak, it’s rare or it’s tartare. I don’t shy away from what a dead animal looks like and will happily suck the brains out of a prawn’s head, gnaw the meat from a rabbit’s rib cage and extract the cheeks from a fish’s head.
I’m not one of those part-vegetarians either, who eat factory-farmed chicken but wouldn’t dream of making dinner out of anything that you can stroke or cuddle. I’ve tried horse, ostrich, veal and dog, for god’s sake (hang in there vegetarians, the redemptive story arc is coming).
And it’s always a bad time. I’ve just booked 2 Michelin-starred restaurants when my friend James is visiting. How do I turn down the Wagyu beef or the pulled pork dumpling from the tasting menu? I mean, really, how will I ever eat out again? Then I remember that James is a vegetarian. James eats fish though. I decide that I will also eat fish, mainly because I haven’t seen as many documentaries about fish-farming, and also because I don’t want people to stop inviting me to dinner.
Defense #2 – My family will disown me
So, as we’ve seen, I’m the definition of a meat eater and I come from a long line of meat eaters. In fact, I suspect it would be easier to come out as gay than as a vegetarian in my family. Family barbeques, manned by my brother-in-law, usually feature 12 different types of pork. Him and my sister are probably responsible for the slaughter of a small (sal)army of pigs annually. In fact, so pork-fixated are they, I have dubbed the family McCaughran “the McPorkrans”. My 3-year-old niece is transfixed by Peppa Pig without realising that Peppa constitutes her primary food group. Her first word was “sausage”. The first full sentence I heard her say was “Got any ham?”.
Then there’s my gran, who will fear I’ll get anemia, my mum will wonder how the hell to make a nutroast and my brother will send me daily pictures of his bacon sandwich as a form of vindictive torture. Not quite sure yet how to deal with this one, particularly as the McPorkrans are coming for Xmas and have already booked a chef who will be preparing a banquet which features a full roast suckling pig. Maybe I’ll ask the chef to slaughter and prepare the pig onsite. Perhaps the sight of a squealing Peppa being butchered before their eyes will convert the McPorkrans to a lifetime of veganism.
Defense #3 – I don’t eat that much meat anyway
When bemoaning the cruelty of the meat industry with my vegetarian friends, I’ve always qualified my meat-eating with the caveat that I never cook it at home unless it’s organic and free-range, and only order it at a restaurant if they don’t have fish. I don’t object to the killing and eating of animals in theory, it’s more the large-scale meat-farming practices that I don’t support. So it’s ok to more-or-less not eat meat, right? Well, maybe, but it’s not completely true. I eat plenty of non-organic meat but always manage to rationalise it with one of the following excuses; I can’t afford it, it’s free, it looks particularly mouth-watering, it’s home-cooked, it smells so good that animal must have wanted to be eaten, etc. In fact, I can pretty much find an excuse for eating it, whatever the situation. So really, the only way to not be a complete hypocritical cretin is to absolutely and 100% reject all types of meat (unless it’s fish).
So that’s it, my 3 cast-iron arguments in tatters, there’s nothing else for it – I’m going veggo! Wish me luck!