First Anniversary

There are two pretty big anniversaries covered today, both from a year ago.  The first, which is probably of most relevance to readers, is that this blog is now a year old!  365 days, 220 posts, 10,548 views and 107 followers; it’s not famous yet by any means but has gone much further than I ever expected.  The blog is continuing to go through an unfortunate slump in activity as I continue to get to grips with university (my timekeeping seriously lacks something to be desired) yet I still seem to be getting views.  Views don’t equate to quality, of course, but it’s humbling to think people are even looking at the blog on a daily basis.

views

Although posts may be less frequent, I hope to return to posting about topics which interest me and engage further with the world community of bloggers.  Posts I currently have in mind include ‘What is Anthropology?’ based on my less than favourable impression of this bizarre subject, a look at the ages of world leaders, a fresher’s perspective on career prospects, a review of 2013 at New Year and intensive coverage of voting events ranging from by-elections, the European Parliament elections in May and the exciting Scottish independence referendum in September.  It’s a big year – watch this space!

The other anniversary marks a year of vegetarianism.  Despite the stray gelatine and one unfortunate incident where I tucked into half a chicken pie before thinking, “this doesn’t taste much like soya…” it’s been a remarkable success!  I charted my progress here and here, but even then I never expected to last so long.  “I could stop tomorrow,” I wrote back in December, while in January I admitted “I still believe I’ll eat meat again one day.”  The latter remains entirely possible, of course, although I find it difficult to imagine how it would occur.

So here’s to another productive, meat-free year!  I’ll see you next November 18th.

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Vegetarianism, Veganism and Snobbery

Precisely 7 months and 9 days ago – on the same day I started this blog, in fact – I made the decision to stop eating meat.  I’ve already discussed this on here before and won’t bore you with the details again but there is one thing I’ve discovered that’s worth mentioning: the strange snobbery which seems to exist between vegans and vegetarians – and also, to an extent, between vegetarians and meat-eaters.

I’m perfectly happy as a vegetarian.  To my parents’ relief I have no plans to become a vegan, largely because I know I’d struggle with the diet but also because I don’t see an ethical need to do so (though I am becoming increasingly concerned with dodgy elements of the dairy industry).  My general rule is that I avoid if possible all products which require animals to be slaughtered to eat – so I avoid leather and marshmallows but don’t mind eggs and milk.  I therefore find it quite bizarre that some vegans would criticise me for this decision.  I’ve never encountered it personally, but even the most limited foray into the vegetarian society shows this to be the case.  Just read any comments on the various vegetarian groups which exist on Facebook or elsewhere and you’ll find such condescension and negativity between vegans and vegetarians.  Vegans accuse vegetarians of taking ‘the easy option’ and only making a superficial effort whereas vegetarians accuse vegans of being excessive and impractical.

What irks me about this is that we all have the same aims: we all believe that a limited consumption of meat is better for society from both a moral and environmental point of view.  Sure, vegans would extend this definition to all animal products but essentially we’re on the same side.  This in-fighting presents such an unwelcoming and intimidating message to outsiders who may be considering becoming a vegetarian and therefore does nothing for the cause.  It’s like certain elements are trying to achieve this Stalinist purity of the vegetarian/vegan ideology, opposing all other versions even if they’re similar in most respects.  It’s senseless.

Another interesting thing I’ve experienced is that people tend to mention meat a lot when I’m around – often in a joky fashion like, “look at this yummy murder!”.  This is probably largely because I have an irritating habit of being rather frank about my beliefs so people might get the impression that I judge them for being different (which I definitely don’t!  I was eating meat myself only just over 200 days ago so I can hardly pass judgement).  It’s harmless but does raises interesting questions about potential snobbery between meat-eaters and vegetarians.  It’s all too easy for vegetarians to look at meat-eaters as immoral, selfish collaborators with an evil industry, while meat-eaters may look as vegetarians as wishy-washy tree-huggers (not a description I’d disagree with but, you know, it’s not very constructive!).  Whether or not an individual eats meat should be seen as a private lifestyle choice.  We can promote our own ideas through visibility and reasoned argument but, ultimately, nobody should feel compelled to make one particular choice.  Snobbery from any direction – vegan, vegetarian or other – should be opposed.

Two Months Without Meat (But Not Gelatine)

Today I have been celebrating two months of vegetarianism!  I’m mostly comfortable with calling it that now, rather than ‘trying to go without meat for a while’ back when I was scared I’d fall off the quorn wagon.  But now I’ve assured myself that my will is strong enough to continue.  There are two sides to my psyche: the intellectual, moral (and thankfully dominant) side, then the more instinctive  ‘go with the flow’ side, which wonders why I am avoiding meat, since everyone eats it.  The rational me responds that alcohol, tobacco and capitalism are also accepted by society, yet are what I would consider Bad Things.  Resistance usually stops by that point.

Gosh, I really am an all-round abstinent person, thinking about it.

I still believe I’ll eat meat again one day, though I want this lifestyle to be looked back upon as more than just ‘a phase’.  My Geography teacher, who’s a slightly obsessive ecologically-minded person, found out recently about my vegetarianism.  He seemed to approve, and after making fun of me for destroying the Amazon rainforest with the growth of soya beans admitted that he once was one as well.  Which got me thinking: if someone like him tried vegetarianism and eventually decided against it, chances are I probably will too.  Then again, I have an uncle who has been a vegetarian for over 30 years now, and is still going strong.  It will be interesting to see how I do.

The prospect of eating meat is particularly tempting when faced with a school menu like I had today: ‘reestit mutton’, chicken curry, salad boxes (with added chicken and bacon!) or cheese sandwiches.  I’m not the best fan of cheese but was forced to take that option.  Would it really be that difficult to include the occasional ‘veggie’ sausage, or quorn chicken, rather than always token vegetarian options like stuffed peppers or, in cases like today, nothing?

Other than these grievances, I’ve gone pretty successfully.  I do still eye up meat – bacon’s the worst of all – whenever someone eats it, and sometimes take a sniff as if to test myself, though I’m never seriously tempted.  Christmas Dinner was tough; roast quorn didn’t quite cut it.  The recent story about horsemeat being an unrecorded ingredient in some beef burgers has strengthened my resolve however, not because eating horse is any worse than eating cow but because it’s highlighted the furtive, shady nature of many cheap meat products.  Yes, all is well.  Except one small blip…

I discovered that the margarine I’ve been eating, ‘benecol light’, contains gelatine.  I’m not sure whose idea it was to put in boiled hoof, skin and hide into something you spread over bread, but there you go.  I did some research and it appears that gelatine is often used in various ‘light’ foods as a replacement for certain fats to bond it all together.  Gelatine can also appear in some jams, and even yogurts.  Most people don’t know that it’s in marshmallows, either – as well as jelly and most chewy sweets like Haribos.  I’m now checking the ingredients of many commodities with quite a fervour.

I’m not very bothered by this, because I was unaware of what I was eating, but it’s irritating to have my diet decisions undermined in such a way.  I can’t imagine the trouble vegans must go through; though I do think veganism is going a bit too far.  Animals could theoretically lead perfect lives in a vegetarian society; chickens will always lay eggs and cows will always produce milk – in fact, it can cause pain for cows not to be milked.

Here’s hoping I can post a similar update in two months’ time!

Vegetarianism

I’ve been following a vegetarian diet for two weeks, now.  For nearly as long as I’ve been doing this blog, in fact!  It began as an experiment to see what life as a vegetarian would be like, and to see how long I could last.  I immediately learned many things, such as having to check that food hasn’t been cooked in animal fat, and there were also factors I just hadn’t thought of, like gelatine in jelly and marshmallows.

Yet, I’ve found it far easier than I expected to.  This is helped in part due to the wide availability of meat replacements from quorn and soya, which has eased the transition.  I still don’t know of imitations for steak and fish, which are the two foods I’m missing the most.  Finding food at school is also a struggle, but I plan to devote a separate post to that travesty.

I have no idea how long this will continue for.  I could keep it up indefinitely, or I could also stop tomorrow.  A few people have been wafting bacon in my face (quite violently sometimes), I assume in the hope that I’ll have some kind of relapse and bite their hand off.  But if I do return to eating meat it will be after a firm decision I’ve made – not due to a moment of weakness.  I’d like to think I, or most people for that matter, would have a stronger will than that and stick to their decisions.

So what caused this sudden decision?  It wasn’t something I’d planned doing, I just decided then and there to stop eating meat.  I guess there are several factors: I’d just met some adorable piglets who are being reared for meat, and I suppose I felt that renouncing meat gave me a right to enjoy their company.  I’ve also had several discussions with my Auntie, who owns a farm, over the nature of keeping animals for food, but considering I’m a meat eater I’ve never had a leg to stand on.  I’d also been having a exceptionally terrible week, so I suppose it was something to focus on.  The mind makes interesting decisions like that.  Perhaps I should be grateful.

But vegetarianism is something I’ve long considered.  Every time I’d previously had a conversation with a vegetarian I could feel myself being pulled closer.  My primary reason, like most people, is that I’m increasingly becoming uncomfortable with eating something which had once been so clearly alive, and thoughtful, and emotive, and so similar to myself.  I know eating meat is natural and, assuming I keep this up, I’d never have a problem with it if I needed to for survival; but I’m thinking, while I have the option to lead a healthy life without eating meat, I should take it.  There’s also the ‘wishy-washy’ reason that it will lead to a more sustainable society.  I’m pretty sure I read a figure that if everyone in the world became a vegetarian, due to the complex nature of growing crops and energy transfers (I don’t really know the details), there’d be more than enough food for everyone in the planet for many years to come.  (Okay, there’s already enough food on the planet for everyone, it’s just unevenly divided, but with a growing population there won’t always be).  And of course, assuming I can keep a balanced diet, it’s far healthier; I’m already noticing how many more fruit and vegetables I’m eating.

Though I’ve not been doing this long enough to be offering advice, I will anyway: if you’re considering vegetarianism, even as a vague idea, just try it.  Don’t think longterm. I’m still looking ahead to the future when I’ll let myself eat meat – even though I hope I can avoid it happening – to make it seem like less of a big decision, and more something I’m just trying out.  I still refuse to label myself ‘a vegetarian,’ in case I do have a relapse, and that’s fine.  There’s no shame in not being able to continue with it; I don’t think the diet is for everyone.  But once you’ve tried it, you can know for sure, and you’ll have a better idea of what’s involved if one day you do want to make the big step.