YES- Milly Butters
I can almost hear the eye rolling and exasperated sighing coming from meat-eaters before I even begin to defend vegetarianism or veganism. The old line: ‘How do you know someone is a vegetarian/vegan when you meet them? Because they’ve already told you’ is perhaps true.
We plant-eaters tend to be very passionate about our preferences for greenery and we like to talk about it. And what’s wrong with that? Don’t we all like to passionately talk about what we believe in? Agreed, no one likes having ideas shoved down their throat that they aren’t interested in, but allow me to suggest that this irritation with vegetarians and vegans might stem originally from a place of guilt on behalf of meat eaters.
I believe the logic of most western meat eaters (where our relationships with animals are a much more emotional part of our lives) to be completely flawed.
We fawn over our dogs and cats, spending thousands of pounds on them over their lives, lavishing them in attention, becoming so attached to them that we consider them ‘a part of the family’ and are devastated when they die.
If someone across the street from you was kicking a dog, or abusing it in anyway, we’d all help save it. Animal abuse can even get you imprisoned. I’d say that it’s likely that even if you saw someone across the street abusing a pig or baby cow, you’d also rush across to put a stop to it. And yet, as soon as this is an animal we like to eat, this logic doesn’t seem to apply anymore. We’re happy to allow humans to abuse animals as long as it happens behind the doors of a slaughterhouse and we can’t see it.
Paul McCartney famously coined the line: ‘If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we’d all be vegetarian’. People have become unbelievably disconnected from what is actually on their plates, failing to acknowledge the fact that we are eating something that was once living, felt pain, was intelligent (recent studies have found pigs to be equally intelligent as dogs and highly social animals) and in the case of mass factory farming, likely had a miserable life.
These are facts that people don’t want face up to, or haven’t been made aware of, and I understand that. Up until three years ago I ate meat and thought absolutely nothing of it at all, and never felt a moment of guilt.
Yet, when I became aware of the conditions under which animals are kept in order to make the most profit whilst feeding people, my conscience began to ache.
Animals are not materials to use for business, and I began to think about the animals on my plate as I would the dog curled up next to the fire in my home. If I can’t convince you from an empathetic point of view, let me also remind you that mass farming is damaging for our planet.
Thirty-seven per cent of our methane emissions are from livestock farming, and the greenhouse gases emitted by the factory farming industry outweigh our entire global transport system. Numerous myths circulate around factory farms, which contribute to mistaken ideas about how ‘bad’ they really are. People may argue that they are an efficient way of feeding our growing population, but they are actually highly wasteful – the crops fed to industrially reared animals could feed an extra four billion people.
As the demand for cheap meat grows, the pressure this is putting on forests, rivers and oceans is huge. Given the recent surge in awareness about the plastic crisis we are now facing as a planet, and damning reports on how we may well end up destroying our planet in the scarily near-future, it seems that we are missing a trick.
Cutting out meat from our diet means the business drive for factory farms lowers, and the damage they do to the environment dramatically lessens. I normally feel a little embarrassed to talk about vegetarianism and veganism so openly and forcefully, as I earn myself the badge of one of ‘those’ vegetarians who won’t stop forcing their opinions on others.
If giving up meat completely seems out of the question, maybe think a little about how often you eat it (it’s bad for your health as well when eaten too often) and where it comes from – source your meat more carefully.
However, I’m hoping this will make you think about the impact of what it is you are eating. Animals are not here for our pleasure, and they matter far more than to simply satisfy our taste buds. We are emotional beings, and we know that what is morally right is not always what is easy. Yes, meat tastes great, but does the taste of it justify the consequences? I’m not sure.
Since when are we people that put our pleasure over morality? If a murderer told the court he couldn’t stop killing people because it just felt ‘too good’ how do you think they’d respond?
NO- Archie Batra
The debate surrounding vegetarianism (not that I have much appetite for it) too often degenerates into nothing more than puerile moralising and name-calling, so hopefully I’ll manage to avoid both in establishing the case for us meat eaters.
But, to be quite honest, I could never actually advocate in favour of vegetarianism for everyone. I should say that I’m not offended by someone consciously eating vegetarian food (my Indian heritage makes it impossible for me to hate lovers of rabbit food) but I am irked when I am bluntly informed that my eating habits are somehow immoral, bad for the environment, or bad for me.
Unless my food has been horribly mistreated (something I try to avoid, anyway) there’s nothing immoral about me following my very natural instincts and eating other animals. We’ve eaten them for hundreds of thousands of years, and a lot of the animals we eat are perfectly happy eating other living things as well.
We shouldn’t be disingenuous about it; eating a good steak is about as natural as breathing and walking. I also take issue with people advocating vegetarianism on environmental grounds. Whilst I’ve no doubt that the sheer amount of land and resources needed to keep our livestock alive and well is incomprehensible, a ‘road to Damascus’ conversion on my part isn’t going to do a damn bit of good: I’m only one man!
But, more importantly, even if every Briton renounced meat-eating forevermore, any effect this would have would immediately be dwarfed by the meat consumed by other countries. (China and America come to mind.)
My actions, even the combined actions of those around me, wouldn’t do a damn bit of good. And, even if they did, I’m not sure we’d like the consequences; our country’s farmers wouldn’t thank you for embracing the virtues of vegetarianism, and if we all genuinely abandoned meat we’d probably decimate rural communities. I also don’t particularly care if eating meat is bad for me because, quite frankly, almost everything I do is bad for me.
My gym membership just represents money I’ll never see again, and all the booze, crisps, and television that I enjoy to excess has probably already done far more damage than can be repaired. If anything, binning the chicken and the pork would probably be worse for me, as they’re one of the few relatively healthy things my body sees.
Moreover, people just enjoy eating meat. It’s delicious; bacon sarnies are probably waiting with St Peter at the pearly gates. Even if meat was proved to be horribly bad for you, I doubt that the majority of people would care; it just tastes too nice.
This is also a point where it’s easy to see the hypocrisy of many vegetarians. Their body is their temple, right up until they’re slamming tequila shots and stumbling to the takeaway at 2am. There’s nothing wrong with trying to be healthy, but in advocating something as substantial as vegetarianism, it’s more persuasive if you’re consistent.
And, whilst I realise this is a bit of a cop out, vegetarianism is, at least for me, a hard diet to follow. I am forever a social embarrassment, and anything that makes sociable activities, like eating out at a nice restaurant, even a little bit more awkward is anathema to me.
I have witnessed the awkward approach to the waiter (“Don’t you have anything vegetarian?”) and cringed behind my menu, waiting for the catastrophe to be over. I refuse to ever put myself in that situation; I’ve never have the courage to confess to my waiters that, actually, the undercooked and cold meal they’ve served me is anything less than perfect, let alone kick up a fuss when food I like isn’t on the menu.
I also have no self-control and have to exercise an embarrassing amount of willpower to avoid stuffing myself full of sausage rolls every lunch. I know full well that I could not keep to a vegetarian diet even if I tried, and so I’m not going to subject myself to the embarrassment of attempting one.
What a lot of adherents to the vegetarian cause often forget is that not everyone can do what they do. For this reason alone, I’m unwilling to advocate that the world goes veggie. If I can’t do it, I shouldn’t force others to. Frankly, I love meat; it’s easy to cook, often very good for you, and most meats have a strong enough flavour for me to overcome my stunted sense of taste.
Eating meat is an easy, natural way to live your life. My honest advice would be to not unnecessarily burden yourself with such an oppressive diet. Life’s too short to not enjoy good steaks, greasy bacon butties, fattening sausage rolls, and questionable donner meat. Leave the rabbit food to the rabbits, and lead a normal life.