Just to cement my dissociation from politics which I've had up to here (points to top of head), I've decided not to engage in any political discussion with anyone, on or off Facebook or anywhere else, and I'm moving on to what are most likely much more important topics.
People roll their eyes when you mention the word 'vegetarian' and even more should you say 'vegan', it's a built-in prejudice that may be left over from the 70's when it was a short-lived fashion to embrace one or the other, become a bit of a contrived eccentric, stop eating meat, start eating pulses, join a commune (very popular back then) and wear tie-dye smocks. That's not a parody, it's just what happened. If you don't remember it then ask someone who was around back then.
Now, although attitudes have been slow to adjust, more and more people are engaging in the vegetarian movement and for some really good reasons that don't necessarily involve sandals and lentils.
Firstly, there is much more around now to cater for this way of life, supermarket shelves bulge with veggie foods and restaurant menus offer tempting fare for non meat eaters. Given the appalling conditions in which our meat is produced, anyone with any conscience should probably refrain from eating meat, there's no excuse not to.
But.... basically we (and by 'we' I mean 'me') like to eat meat, it's a habit that is difficult to break. I've seen some of the awful treatment of intensively farmed animals, the waste and the cruelty. I am well aware that these conditions will not improve while there is demand for the product. I realise that by calling the end product 'a product' in itself makes it more palatable and less of what it really is - a life created and terminated to satisfy the human craving for meat. Imagining the animal as a product removes any compassion we need have as humans for the welfare of the animal. And thereby lies the problem.
I struggle with how I would adapt to my concept of vegetarianism but I struggle just as much with the fact that I am part of the demand for cheap meat. I am part of the problem.
Growing up in the countryside, I used to visit a local farm every morning to see the calves and get a glass of 'fresh from the cow' milk. I 'adopted' one calf and called it Patch. I'd visit him every day and we quickly formed a bond. Then one morning I arrived at the farm to see him on the back of a truck, ready to be driven off to the abattoir, along with all the others. Nobody can ever tell me that he did not know where he was going. There was fear in his eyes.
I number within my extended family (and circle of friends) a percentage of vegetarians and vegans and I admire greatly their discipline. I don't necessarily know their reasons for choosing their lifestyle but I imagine that an opposition to animal cruelty will figure in many of their choices.
In our household we have started to make at least one day each week meat-free. It's not difficult and it's not expensive. It's even quite tasty, given the many options that every supermarket now offers both in raw ingredients and ready made meals. Perhaps one day soon we will make it two days a week, or maybe more. But the eternal conundrum still returns, I like to eat meat. And I don't know how to stop liking it even though I know I'd feel much better about myself if I did take the plunge and become vegetarian.
Perhaps the biggest influence on me regarding this question will be my literary hero Isaac Bashevis Singer, a loyal vegetarian and an all-round very good man.
I think this quote from him perfectly sums up the reason (if one really should need one) to give up meat. For the sake of the animals.
To Mr Singer there was nothing more important in life than kindness. Who would not agree with that?
“We find very few people who have never thought that killing animals is actually murder, founded on the premise that might is right . . . I will call it the eternal question: What gives man the right to kill an animal often torture it, so that he can fill his belly with its flesh. We know now, as we have always known instinctively, that animals can suffer as much as human beings. their emotions and their sensitivity are often stronger than those of a human being. Various philosophers and religious leaders tried to convince their disciples and followers that animals are nothing more than machines without a soul, without feelings. However, anyone who has ever lived with an animal be it a dog, a bird or even a mouse - knows that this theory is a brazen lie, invented to justify cruelty.” Extracts from Singer's foreword to 'Vegetarianism, a Way of Life, by Dudley Giehl'
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