I initially wrote this post in 2013 and decided not to publish it. Well, the world has changed in a subtle but meaningful way in the five years since then, and reading it back has been a reassuring exercise that the perception of vegetarianism has been improving. Anyway, I feel like it’s still a relevant topic, even though I’m pleased to say that I no longer feel it with such strength.
Ah boo hoo. Poor me. I’m a vegetarian. I choose not to eat eat. What a ponce.
A friend of mine has been a vegetarian for only a small and recent percentage of his life. Last month he said something to me that has resonated strongly ever since: ‘why does everyone keep asking me why I’m a vegetarian?’
I didn’t really have a very good answer for him.
It’s weird. Eating meat is delicious. Eating meat is easy. Eating meat is acceptable.
Being a vegetarian is genuinely annoying. I’d love to eat meat, but I’d rather not cause suffering to innocent creatures for the sake of personal desire. It’s shit being a veggie sometimes, but that’s what I believe is the right thing to do.
So, for me, being a vegetarian is a sacrifice. I want to eat meat, but I like to think I know better. I’m not saying anyone has to agree with me on that. My friend Glenn puts it nicely: that in theory it’s probably the right thing to do, and he can’t really argue with the academic logic – he just really likes eating meat and doesn’t really care quite enough. Fair enough, I guess.
With that in mind, it’s a constant temptation to just eat meat, join in and get on with it.
This makes it that extra bit more difficult when I’m vilified for such a choice.
I saw a joke on Reddit today that went “what’s the difference between a Muslim and a vegetarian? Muslims have the decency to blow themselves up for being cunts”. I’m not offended by it or anything, but it is a bit disheartening to read stuff like that.
It’s infuriating to be so regularly told I’m ‘missing out’. I know I am, that’s the point.
It’s doubly frustrating when it’s implied I’m being some sort of pussy, or somehow ‘unmanly’, for being a vegetarian.
Like my aforementioned friend, I’m regularly questioned – even grilled (get it?!) – on why I choose to not eat meat. Reminders of how ostracising it can be to be a vegetarian come from everyone, from my best friends who bring it up practically every day to total strangers who make me feel like I’m being difficult or pathetic for not wanting to eat meat.
Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t believe vegetarians bring up their dietary choices out of context, and it’s far more often the case that they are challenged on it instead.
Indeed, even my own girlfriend (2018 edit – now my wife!), whom I love dearly, was originally firmly and staunchly against the concept of not eating meat. She even jokingly suggested I ‘tricked’ her into dating me by ‘hiding’ my dietary preferences, and was quite unforgiving in the early days we were together.
However, why should the onus be on me? Why should I have to justify not eating meat?
Non-smokers aren’t required to justify their opt-out, and those that choose not to partake in other ethically-questionable things are also generally left alone, or in some cases even championed.
If I have to, then everyone should be willing to speak and explore the reasons they choose their own diets, and feel comfortable in explaining why they eat meat just as much as a vegetarian should for the opposite.
Good luck to meat eaters, I say. Do what you like.
Just be willing to stand up for it.
I’d much rather someone say ‘I don’t give a shit about animals. I’m hungry, they’re made of meat. Nothing personal, I just want to eat beef. I don’t care enough about their welfare to make that sacrifice’.
Though I’m personally disappointed by their lack of empathy or compassion for other living beings, that mindset is mostly fine by me. It really is.
What bothers me is people who are actively confrontational, or say ‘it’s natural’. Those that claim it’s weak or unmanly to not want to eat steak. Those that think being vegetarian is the wimps’ choice, or that eating meat is just ‘normal’ and there is no reason to question it. These arguments have no rational basis.
It’s much harder, and more ‘manly’ I think, to have the balls to say no to a lovely bit of chicken in front of a dozen football-loving thugs than it is to eat a carefully-prepared and socially acceptable Big Mac.
This was never designed to be a crusade against meat eaters, though that end bit nearly sounded like that. Please don’t get that impression.
Instead, what I’d like to underline is that being a vegetarian is actually pretty garbage sometimes, and you’re probably not helping.
If forgoing the delicious taste of meat wasn’t enough, regularly getting socially called out and having to continuously justify and defend my ethical position, and even my masculinity, just seems unfair.
So if you’re a meat eater and are reading this, I ask that you kindly consider how difficult it actually is being a vegetarian. Please be mindful of all of those stupid wet hippy stereotypes associated with it, and try to respect that the decisions they’ve made are very likely for difficult, challenging and otherwise tough reasons.
And yeah, I realise that posting a ramble about whiny vegetarian things does make me a bit of a cunt but that’s besides the point.