I don’t profess to be a vegetarian, but for the last week I have eaten a meat-free diet. And bugger me if as a consumer society we don’t make that a surprisingly hard thing to do, in the 21st century.
The first question you would probably ask me is “…why?” and that’s a perfectly valid question. Because I do like meat (fnarr fnarr). In fact, from a very young age I have been borderline obsessive about bacon and eggs. However, there has been a quiet, internal conversation happening within me for many years, and it has been getting persistently louder recently.
I am aware that a lot of the issues in my adult life have come about because I have held myself to frankly impossible standards of personal behaviour. In the last couple of years I have learned to accept that I am subject to the workings of a brain, and since brains run on chemical reactions, they are subject to fuck ups and sub-par responses, and sometimes I make bad choices. Sometimes I make bad choices, and that’s OK.
Now, while I have stopped giving myself an unnecessarily hard time, I do strive to live my life in such a way that I feel that I can justify myself to myself. I don’t live my life for, or by the standards of, others but I do need to know that I am doing right according to how I believe I should conduct my shit. One of the things I simply will not tolerate in my own thinking and behaviour is hypocrisy…and I have to say that I have had a few uncomfortable moments with that.
A video appears on Facebook showing what any reasonable human being would consider intolerable cruelty towards dogs and cats within the meat trade in Eastern countries. I find myself outraged and upset that some assholes are shoving these beautiful, sweet creatures into horrible conditions in cages, to then be killed for food and…hey, wait a minute…
The hypocrisy of my response troubles me. Not the reaction itself, because that is the correct way to respond to the situation if you have any degree of empathy. What bothers me is that I don’t bat an eyelid at the beautiful, sweet creature who was shoved into horrible conditions and killed to facilitate me chucking a slice of its arse into my basket at Tesco, and calling it a steak. If I don’t think that it’s right to do that to an animal, then it shouldn’t be right to do that to any animal.
The other thing that bothers me is that I could not kill anything in cold blood myself. I always defend little creatures like spiders and moths from death wherever I can, and I know full well that I could not look at a living, breathing, feeling animal and be the direct cause of its death. So how can it possibly be OK for me to cover my eyes and ears and have bacon for my breakfast, knowing that I am letting the blood of an intelligent, personable and fun creature be on someone else’s hands?
Let me be clear here, I am not making a judgement about anyone else’s choices. I mean seriously, if you could live in a forest and track, hunt, kill and butcher an animal to provide for yourself then I honestly tip my hat to you. You have a whole level of survival skills that are simply not available to me. I know that vegetarians – and even more so vegans – get a real hard time about advocating their choices; I am certainly not about to put an evangelical hat on, and wag my finger about right and wrong – not with some of the shit I’ve got up to in the past. I really don’t feel qualified.
Anyway, I digress. The nagging little thoughts that I am not doing right by myself are bothering me more and more as time passes. A few months ago, I was getting the bus into town, and there were some teenaged shitbag kids sitting at the back. They were being loud and obnoxious, and I put my earphones in so that I could retreat into my musical bubble and merrily ignore them. A woman got on shortly after me with three kids – although I don’t really have much experience of people who aren’t yet legally allowed to buy a round in a pub, I would guess they were probably aged between 5 and 12.
When they got off, the mother walked past me with obvious liquid streaks across the back of her clothes, and she angrily confronted the bus driver, pointing back towards the kids at the back of the bus. In my gut, I felt like an utter cunt. I had known that those kids were trouble and I had bowed out of that situation. In doing so, I let someone else suffer what was probably a scary and humiliating experience with her children, and she should not have had to do that alone. I was capable of being a better human being in that situation and I SHOULD. HAVE DONE. BETTER. That is the same gut-deep disappointment that I feel about eating meat at the moment.
I haven’t really mentioned to anyone that I’ve been doing this, mostly because it’s a point-of-sale decision for me alone. I am not doing it for any politically motivated reasons, or because I want to receive or change anyone else’s opinion. I did mention it to one of my friends in passing the other day, and she pointed out that me not eating meat wasn’t going to make a difference in the grand scheme of things; no animals were NOT going to die because of my choice to not have sausages for lunch. It kinda stumped me at the time, because she was technically right, but in retrospect – that’s a really shitty reason to not do the right thing. “My contribution is so small that it’s not worth even making” is about the very worst reason not to do A Thing. In my world, at any rate.
So anyway, skip to last Friday and I just decided on a whim that I wasn’t going to have bacon for breakfast. Then I decided I wasn’t going to have the beef soup for lunch. I queued for a sandwich and decided that I wasn’t going to have ham…
Let me familiarise you with one major flaw about me; I am really bad at short term planning. I have the attention span of a toddler with a belly full of Irn Bru. I eat when I am hungry and don’t think about food the rest of the time. I end out buying most of my meals from the canteen at work, because the level of planning and shopping required to sort out food from home just escapes me. Besides, on the odd occasions that I do manage to take dinner to work with me, I always end out eating it before 10am….and then still wind up buying the normal amount of food from the canteen anyway.
What I have discovered, in this week of leaving meat out of my diet, is;
If you are like me (unless you are a fan of intensely plain salad) your options are ALL OF THE MOTHERFUCKING CARBOHYDRATES IN YOUR FACE.
I have been putting some nice meals together in the evenings, but when I have been out of the house, my diet has pretty much consisted of bread, potatoes, chocolate and cheese. Oh yeah, I also had a pastry in the café at university… I’m at the train station and I’m hungry – “Cheese sandwich, asshole. Oh that’s plain and boring, is it? Here, have some crisps.”
A major problem with carbohydrate-dense foods (for me at least) is that I process them really quickly and then just as quickly end out hungry again, despite doubling my daily calorie intake.
Seriously, how are you vegetarian motherfuckers not all the size of small cars??
I really need to learn to plan ahead, or this might be the death of me.