I am vegetarian. No, it’s not a disease. Yes, I chose this lifestyle.
Not a week goes by when someone I don’t know, or someone I’ve only just met, feels the need to address my dietary choices, usually in tones of disbelief. They castigate, they ridicule, they demand to know what on earth could possibly possess me to be so contrary as to refuse to eat meat. For some reason, they think it is socially acceptable to bludgeon me with mocking words or gory teasing to ‘try and get a rise out of the vegetarian.’
Lucky for me, I’m not squeamish. I’ve also come from an open-minded family, so I have zero problem with other people engaging with their meaty meals while I eat my vegetarian dish. Why is it that my tolerance of a carnivorous diet cannot be reflected back by others, as a tolerance of vegetarianism? For starters, it’s not like I’m actually hurting anyone by refusing to eat meat. In fact, if you look at the bare facts, I’m the only one at the table who hasn’t hurt something to get a meal.
Why can’t I demand to know why meat eaters eat meat? Picture this: every meal I share with a potential new client, or an acquaintance, or a new relation – should I put them on the spot, ask them to explain themselves to me? Of course not, it would be ridiculous. So why is it okay for others to do that to me?
I love dining out – the atmosphere of the restaurant, the freedom to try something new. Yet, despite the fact that over half the nations on Earth are vegetarian (through choice or necessity) and that as a result there are literally millions of tasty, interesting and varied vegetarian dishes to choose from I find myself faced with the same three options time and time again.
Why is it acceptable to call yourself a chef and yet only be capable of producing a goats cheese and sun dried tomato tart as the vegetarian option? Oh, my mistake. You’re capable of a mushroom risotto too. My, aren’t you clever.
Why is it socially acceptable to judge me on the fact that I want to take care of my body and the environment, at the same time? It is scientifically proven that modern man (and women) tend towards eating way more meat than is healthy for them to do so. The obsession with animal products making a meal has led to serious obesity issues throughout the first world. For health problems alone, I ask you to compare the average health and age of death in a meat-eating man and a vegetarian man.
Even regardless of personal health, has anyone noticed the weather acting up recently? Not all of it, but a tiny a portion is due to the massive demand for meat products. Animals require space that was previously taken by trees. No trees equals worse air quality. Animals, being organisms, have a tendency to create their own noxious gases, which further add to the problem.
Even if we ignore all the traditional reasons for vegetarianism – animal rights, poverty, religion – then there are so many overwhelming reasons to at least cut down on your meat consumption if you can’t give it up completely. (To which you should ask yourself, why are you so needy that without meat you don’t feel satisfied?) It’s a complicated social thing, banged into our minds after centuries of tradition and availability.
I’m not on a mission to convert you to vegetarianism. As I have said previously, I am open-minded enough to accept that people can choose their own paths through life. What I do ask, is for you to also accept some of that tolerance. Don’t interrogate your vegetarian friends or acquaintances. Don’t sigh at how difficult they are being at your dinner party simply because they won’t compromise their morals and eat a bit of meat gravy because you forgot to make onion gravy. If you don’t agree with their choice, fine. Do accept that it is their choice and they shouldn’t have to go on the defensive every time they venture into the world.