You know that thing hynotists do? That’s how becoming a vegetarian felt to me.
‘When I click my fingers you won’t be able to stomach eating meat, including chicken…’
It wasn’t a considered decision – boom! one day a few weeks ago, I just couldn’t eat those things anymore – but I think I know what triggered it: all the cute animals clips I’ve seen on Facebook. Particularly this one…
There’s something about seeing different species of animals hanging out together, playing, and being nice to each other that touched me deeply and made me start considering my feelings about eating any of them.
Then there was this one, which I’m sure you’ve seen, of the goats playing on the metal arch thing.
I know they’re probably not really playing as we do, it’s natural goat behaviour to climb on things, but something about that clip got under my skin.
I don’t even particularly like goats (those creepy eyes) but it made me start to think about farm animals in particular and how I have allowed them in my head to become a commodity, a resource for humans – rather than as creatures having a life, as I do and my cat does and dogs I’m particularly fond of do, for no reason other than to live it.
The final straw was a Facebook-posted video of cruel US farming practices. I’m not going to describe it and ruin your day, but it made me sob and that was it.
I’m still bewildered how this has crept up on me. For years I’ve championed the Top of the Food Chain argument. Nature red in tooth and claw and all that. I still sincerely believe that Homo sapiens is an omnivore species – it’s the industrial scale of meat ‘production’ I can’t live with.
So what about feeding the two ferocious carnivores I live with, who would happily eat chorizo for every meal?
I still want to cook meat for them (my husband can’t cook, but does all the hoovering, ironing and cleaning up the kitchen, so it’s a division of labour which suits me fine) so I was sure I’d soon get over this sudden reluctance to eat it.
I thought it would happen around about the next time I roasted a chicken …but I cooked that bird and put some on my plate, only to find I simply couldn’t bring it to my lips.
The same happened when I made a big family roast dinner. They tucked in to roast beef and all the trimmings. I had the trimmings with extra beetroot and a big dollop of humous and was perfectly happy with it.
So I’m not finding it a strain to feed the family. If I make them meat, I eat everything except that, we’re all having more bean and veggie meals (I love the recipes of those brilliant vegan Irish boys at the Happy Pear ) – and more fish, because I must confess I still eat that, so really I’m a pescatarian, rather than a vegetarian.
I know fish are animals too and working by my new logic, have as much right to live their natural span as a cute lamb or piglet, but I’m not ready to give up eating the catch that’s brought in by small fishing boats just metres from my front door, just yet. Nothing about this decision seems entirely rational, so I’m just going along with it.
I’ve no idea how long it will last. So far I’ve got through meals out and parties with no problem, but there are many tests to come and I don’t know how strict I’m going to be about it.
Remembering how irritated I’ve been myself in the past, am I up to telling dinner party hosts ‘I don’t eat meat…’?
Will I give up making gin and tonic jelly because it requires gelatin? Will I be able to forgo the haggis I so adore next Burns Night? Would I be able to resist the tandoori lamb chops at Tayyabs (a Pakistani restaurant in London’s Whitechapel)? I just don’t know.
I’m not making any promises to myself, or anyone else, but for now while my husband and daughter sit with meat juices running down their chins, my next order at Half Man Half Burger (the fantastic burger joint in Hastings) will be the Halloumi Be Thy Name grilled cheese burger.