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I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. To me, setting a resolution is little more than an admission of how much you hate yourself. The more resolutions you have, the more dissatisfied you are with how your life turned out. It’s basically just a Klout score for your own personal failures.
Still, as someone with enough personal failures to fill a small suicide note, I thought this year would be a good time to start my first ever New Year’s resolution. As such, I put down my chicken sandwich, threw away my pork pie, spat out my pint of sheep’s blood, and decided to become a vegetarian.
While the possibility of giving up meat is something I’ve talked about for a while now, I had no idea that my decision would prove quite so controversial. In an uncharacteristic fit of naivety, I genuinely thought that it would be greeted with the same passionate congratulations as those who quit smoking. Apparently not.
It turns out that being a vegetarian isn’t worth congratulating. In fact, it’s either treated as silly sentimentalism, obnoxious extremism, or as just a bit weird.
“Eating animals is a weirdly politicised issue, and abstaining from it is kind of like taking a swing at somebody’s religion.”
Even quietly dropping the V-bomb while attempting to navigate a meat-laden menu is somehow akin to discussing politics at the dinner table. In fact, it’s worse. At least if you admitted to voting BNP, most sensible people would quietly shuffle away from you. With the topic of vegetarianism it’s somehow considered the starting pistol for an unplanned orgy of either stupid questions (“Won’t you miss sausages?”), or ill-informed biological assertions (“You realise fish don’t feel pain right?”). Anyone who asks a vegetarian if they miss sausages may as well be asking a smoker if they miss Lucky Strike – of course they do, but that’s hardly the point.
Eating animals is a weirdly politicised issue, and abstaining from it is kind of like taking a swing at somebody’s religion. In fact, eating meat is the closest thing I ever had to a religion myself, and now my godless atheism has even spread to that.
I mean, when you think about it, eating meat is a widespread culturally accepted norm, passed down from parents to their children at a very young age. It’s something that provides comfort and a sense of community. Something that’s not really bad for us but not really that good for us either. And at the end of the day, it’s something that most people have never really bothered to think about, let alone to fact-check.
As a result of this religious devotion, a lot of people who eat meat have an almost automatic reaction when they hear that you’re no-longer a member of the clan. You can almost see the perception of your being change within their eyes. All of a sudden you’ve grown dreadlocks and bought a hemp sweater. You’re now silently lecturing them, looking down at them with smug eyes from the top of tofu mountain.
To be fair, this assumed smugness is perfectly logical. By abstaining from eating meat you’re making the statement that consuming meat (or at the very least killing animals) is morally wrong. You are saying that a thing most people do every day is cruel and immoral. Is it any wonder then why the simple statement “I’m a vegetarian” causes such an uncomfortable and even aggressive reaction?
In the mere six months that I’ve been vegetarian I’ve had people lecture me about protein, question me with bizarre ethical dilemmas (almost always involving a desert island) and make sobbing noises while holding a piece of bacon. And that’s as someone who only ever speaks about being vegetarian when asked (which apparently happens every time I order any food, ever).
Still, it’s an odd thing to get defensive about. At the end of the day, I’ve made a decision which only really needs to affect my life. If people want to talk about it, I’m happy to defend the decision, but for the most part it really only impacts me. In fact, as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t even do that. So far, being a vegetarian seems to fit quite well with what I’ve always believed – it was eating meat that was causing a contradiction.
As is the case with most mentally stable individuals, I personally would never knowingly hurt an animal. Similarly, I would never tolerate anyone else knowingly causing pain or suffering to an animal. As a result, why would I pay someone to knowingly harm an animal on my behalf? Especially for a reason as flippant as taste or personal preference.
Out of all the lifestyle choices a person can make, being a vegetarian seems by far one of the most harmless and obviously agreeable. The only outcomes of such a decision are that I’m no longer paying to have animals harmed, I’ve halved my carbon footprint, and I’m eating a wider variety of food… Fuck me right.
Oh dear. There was that smugness everyone keeps talking about again.