Tuesday, 4 April 2017

i don't eat meat, but there's no need for you to discuss it with me

I stopped eating meat when I was 10. And I mean, I didn’t do a great job, because there was a year 6 barbecue the following week and I’d already returned my RSVP form saying I wanted a burger. And when I bought my lunch in m&s that day I completely forgot and picked the chicken pasta. And people always ask why I went vegetarian, but it wasn’t like some drastic choice. I didn’t watch a documentary about battery farming or something. I just always loved animals (I used to subscribe to an animal magazine; that’s when you know it’s real) and 10 year old me started making the connection that the pretty cows in the fields and the pigs that you see in farms are the same ones that end up on your plates. And they’ve probably lived worse lives than those ones. It’s literally that simple, but I always feel a bit awkward telling people. Because people get very defensive. They like to offer a list sometimes “do you not like meat, or is it animals or an environmental thing?” and honestly I like to vary it according to how annoyed I think they’ll get.

And whenever I express frustration about this, my mum tells me that it’s probably because people think that I’m trying to say that I have stronger morals or values than them, that my ethics are somehow better. Like a moral high ground. And that’s never the case. I dread the words “so why don’t you eat meat?”. And while the stereotype is that of an angry vegan forcing their views onto people, I’d just like you to think of the number of times you’ve heard a non meat eater being asked that compared to the number of times you’ve heard a vegetarian or vegan say to someone “so why do you eat meat?” Yes, you might have some crazy animal extremist on Facebook who won’t touch wool and regularly reminds you that meat is murder, but for the most part, I think we’re just trying to live our lives without meat and without discussing it.

I’m not a preachy person, mainly because I really hate being preached to. I think it’s important to be informed, and I share a ton of articles and stuff on Facebook, but it’s just because I think it’s so easy to not actually be aware of things. I’m not trying to actively change people’s views, but open their minds to different ideas. Like, I didn’t realise that the dairy industry was problematic until about 2 years ago. I pictured it as very much like a milk maid massaging a cow’s udders and getting a nice bucket of milk for us to enjoy (tbh even this idea creeped me out a bit; it’s literally breast milk) and somehow just from reading various things online I decided that I didn’t want to support that industry so I cut dairy out of my diet. No one forced me, no one told me to do it. It wasn’t a case of me being a terrible person when I did have dairy, I’d just been very detached and unaware. The only thing that changed was that I figured that if I could continue my life as normal, reducing cruelty and helping the planet in exchange for having soya and almond milk, then why wouldn’t it? Nothing drastic, that was it.

And honestly, when people say 'but bacon tho' or make another similar comment, I just find it kind of sad. I only stopped eating fish a couple of weeks ago, and I've known that overfishing is a thing and that fishing kills dolphins and that they probably feel pain so that I can enjoy tuna. And I know that. And ultimately, it was selfish that I ate it for so long. I didn't need to, not really, because as delicious as smoked salmon or salad nicoise might be, I am putting my own desire for taste above the cruelty towards an animal and for the future generation. Because our oceans will be empty soon, like, it's a fact. Which is why I would never make fun of someone who didn't eat meat/fish/whatever. You can choose to keep them in your diet, but I think it's very difficult to defend industries that do ultimately put human life above other species pretty much unnecessarily, and are damaging the planet. Like, climate change is massively impacted by meat consumption, and we will all eventually have to cut down meat consumption because cows produce a lot of CO2. I'm not saying that as a preachy vegan, I'm saying that as a normal resident of earth. Like just as you might recycle some paper, try having a veggie burger instead occasionally. They really aren't that bad. You might find it funny to make fun of someone who doesn't eat meat, but they're actually saving the planet a tiny bit, which is kind of great for everyone.

And all these things mean that every time someone laughs at or even questions my meat substitute, I instantly feel annoyed and a little defensive. It's not even that they're always being rude, it's just that so many times someone's said 'what's that?' and then act disgusted at the reply. I wouldn't comment on what you're eating unless I was complimenting it, so please, please, please, return the favour. And fyi, linda McCartney sausages are peng.

Laura x

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