I’m not religious. I don’t go to clubs. I don’t like patriotism and I don’t like people who are lazy or inconsiderate. I don’t smoke and I think watching television is a waste of time. Yet of all things, most often I need to explain why I don’t eat meat.
There’s a stigma on vegetarianism, as if – like a trojan horse riding into society – it brings a fundamental human right into violation. And so my apparition is often met with peers who feel compelled to tell me of reasons why humans should eat meat, or essentially, why I should eat meat. (On the contrary, eating fastfood is perfectly fine and widely accepted, as in popular culture, bacon is idolised and vegetarians are easily mocked.)
Traditionally the product of hunting, meat symbolises masculinity: it was a man’s job to bring the meat home. And there are reasons plentiful to eat it. Our digestive system, teeth to end, is omnivorous. Humans have always eaten meat. There’s plenty of nutrients in meat, and there’s the argument that it simply tastes very good. Since eating meat is part of culture – at least mine – not eating meat is inconvenient. Friends who prepped a meal including meat – not knowing I’m a vegetarian – have to be politely refused of serving their dish, and not all restaurants serve proper vegetarian dishes, if any at all. Another argument is that, although few practise this, you can also be a conscious eater of meat, buying only from ethical and sustainable sources.
With all this, being a vegetarian seems rather absurd.
However, for everything we do there’s a reason not to. You shouldn’t drink milk – or alcohol. You shouldn’t smoke, you shouldn’t spend that much time on Facebook. You shouldn’t check your phone just before you go to bed and you probably shouldn’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, or watch its trailer. Yet we do it anyway.
Many things we do make no sense to others. Yet the larger point I’m trying to make is that, all by itself, life is an oxymoron.
By omitting meat from my diet, I started appreciating all kinds of other foods, such as sprouts, rhubarb and millet. I didn’t know fungus was so good. I didn’t know having no meat can be freeing: I feel satisfied after a meal, not guilty, and I feel healthier than ever before.
In short: it made my life better.