Earlier this year, the eldest sibling in our family began looking into how we treat our environment and its animals. What he discovered led him to make some drastic changes, including becoming a strict vegan. Strict, as in, morally and ethically regarding the treatment of animals for human purposes as a form of slavery.
Good on him, I said. Me and me boyfriend had read Eating Animals the year before and it was my older brother who had pushed cooked chorizo from his wife’s native Spain under our noses last Christmas. I remember taking the chunk with a toothpick thinking, Why can’t people respect I’m cutting out meat? Red oil dribbling down my chin.
Fast forward to this Christmas and you’d be mistaken for wondering if my brother had joined jihadists and is fighting in Syria, the amount of commotion. Our relos are shipping in from Australia and New York and I suggested a nut roast to spare my brother a shitload of meat at the Christmas table. Despite the woman pouring nuts over her daily porridge, mum’s flustered at the thought of cooking anything other than turkey. After a series of emails – I’m glad my brother wasn’t privy to – my mum has done that thing in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and settled on salmon.
Over the summer, I became vegan with my boyfriend. We stayed in his family holiday home in the German countryside and were able to cook our own food and even discovered soya schnitzel from Aldi (which is not without its ethical ironies). So life for a couple of months was easy-peasy. Then things went back to “normality”. Hanging with our mates, attending weddings, back to lunch canteens at work. It just isn’t easy being a socialite-vegan. Even my beloved wine has animals in it!
The reactions from loved ones strike me. Some get uncomfortable. They don’t like change. They see our judgement as a judgement on them. Some get aggressive. Some get it. Some have you for dinner and have no idea the veg from the roasting dish covered in meat juices doesn’t count as vegetarian. I didn’t, before I looked into things.
I’m not militant. I’m pretty flaky with principles at the best of times. I almost shouted at my partner when he mentioned we might have to lay on meat at our wedding since his father’s side are hunters. Two weeks later and my friend opened the lid to a lamb casserole and my vegan summer was knocked on its head.
While I’m not truly vegan, I want to be. I don’t want to shove mass-factory farmed bacon, sausage, porkpies and scotch eggs from caged hens down my gob. For what? Heart disease and obesity. I also don’t blame us public for our eating habits; it’s been forced down our throats by powerful marketing companies that justify all sorts of tosh to keep profits high.
I’m not vegetarian either. I would rather eat the flesh of an outdoor reared animal than cheese from a cramped over-milked cow.
If I were a cow and the farmer gave me two options: a) live your life as you live it, I’ll provide land and pasture but at some point we’re going to kill you to feed someone protein or b) you can be rack-raped, impregnated, have your calf ripped from you and its enzymes used to make camembert for people to dip baguettes in, live out each day crying for your young while being overfed hormones and pumped of your calf’s milk so someone can add it to their tea with two sugars. I’d go with the first option, ta.
Five things we all can do today:
- Eat less meat
- Eat less food
- Be wary of soya beans (devastating land) and quinoa (disturbing food prices for villagers) and eat locally grown stuff
- Try #meatlessmonday to get started, one day off makes a huge difference
- Cater for vegan mates and be nice to them, even if they’re militant dicks. For many vegans, killing animals is genocide, farming them is slavery. You may not agree, but you can be sensitive