Vegetarianism is the future

Updated on 02 January 2014 | 0 Comments

Charlotte Morgan, pictured below cradling lambs, makes the case for abandoning meat in favour of a vegetarian diet.

Me and the seagull

seagullFish hasn’t passed my lips for five months, following an unfortunate incident in Lisbon. I was sitting on the dock of a bay, eating a Portuguese tart (as this photo depicts), when I saw a seagull pluck an already-dismembered fish from the sea and peck at its fleshy insides for five minutes. I couldn’t finish my gelatinous tart after that.

I forgot the whole affair and, a couple of hours later, ordered roast monkish for dinner at a nearby restaurant. But as soon as the first rubbery bite touched my tongue I was paralysed by the memory of that seagull and its snack. How was my situation any less nauseating? Both the bird and I were pecking at a dead fish… the only difference was that I had cutlery. And it’s that queasiness which has put me off eating fish for the past 163 days.   

Then there’s meat. I very rarely eat it at home – my parents have both been veggies for nearly 30 years and so we only stock the fridge up with flesh when a carnivorous sibling is visiting. I wouldn’t order meat out (unless at a fancy joint) because I don’t trust where it’s come from, and even my 6”3 boyfriend would prefer beans to beef when we cook together. So, you see, I am a circumstantial vegetarian; or at the very least a flexitarian.

Being a sort-of vegetarian has made me realise how much sense not eating meat makes. And I genuinely do think that it is the future. Let me present my argument in five points.

1. It’s healthier

veg‘Vegetarians may live longer than meat eaters’ – up to eight years longer, in fact. That’s about the same as the life span gap between smokers and non-smokers. I know I’ll be shot down by our lovely lovefood commenters for even suggesting that, but there are health studies to support it and my own personal experience. I used to eat meat almost every day when my sister lived at home, and it made for a far more sluggish Charlotte.

Cutting out meat and fish means I’ve accidentally increased my consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds and nuts, simply to stay full. All that ‘natural’ food makes me feel bouncy inside, and puts me at less risk of cancer and heart disease than a meat eater, who might not have as much colour in their diet. Plus there’s nothing meat could give me which I don’t already have – I get more than enough protein from cheese, yoghurt, quinoa and nuts, and I hit my iron quota from grazing on spinach.

So you see, chances are that veggies will out-live meat eaters, thus eventually wiping them out altogether. Survival of the fittest and all that.

2. It’s easier to identify

burgerAn aubergine is an aubergine. It couldn’t possibly masquerade as anything else. But, as we all know, beef mince could be horse mince, processed meats are a cocktail of fake ingredients, and you might get a chicken head in your next Happy Meal. I don’t want to risk that.

Fact is, there are fewer processes that vegetables have to go through before reaching the supermarket shelves. Most of them don’t even have to be wrapped! Yes, an organic leg of lamb isn’t going to contain any nasties, but – and this is a sorry state of affairs – you have to pay a premium for ‘pure’ meat. All aubergines are ‘pure’ – sure, some may be genetically modified, or grown using pesticides (no food is perfect); but at least you’re 100% sure that it is indeed an aubergine.

This is why burgers freak me out. All I see is a brown blob, moulded into a convenient bun shape by human hands. You’d never see those growing on a bush, although nowadays kids probably think that they do.

3. There’s nothing natural about eating meat

caveWhen I asked Facebook for opinions on vegetarianism, Geoff Roberts said that ‘we evolved as omnivores’; Josh le’Bear Birchall said that ‘animals eat animals. Who I am to blow against the wind?’; and Neil Albiston pointed out that ‘we are predators, not prey.’ All valid points, but I think they’re entirely irrelevant for 2013.

Yes, of course Stone Age people were supposed to eat meat – hence our canine teeth. But that was millions of years ago, and it’s not about necessity any more. I’m sure Mr and Mrs Ugg would’ve preferred macaroni cheese every now and then, had it been available in 5000 BC. Like it or not, today food is about choice, lifestyle, and taste for those of us lucky enough to be able to afford it.

Besides, since when did we ever stick to what’s ‘natural’? The wonderful thing about humans is that we teach ourselves new, unnatural skills to overcome the barriers holding us back. Swimming, for example – if we're meant to do that, then where are my webbed feet? Or sitting at a desk for eight hours. Drinking alcohol. Going skiing. None of it complements the way our body is made, so why should our diet be determined by the shape of our teeth?

4. It’s cheaper

gratinLet’s imagine a Sunday dinner. Roast potatoes, carrots, stuffing, Yorkshire puddings… and either a roast leg of lamb, or an aubergine gratin as the centrepiece. To feed four people, a leg of lamb will set you back £18, but the ingredients for Lucas Hollweg’s aubergine, courgette and basil gratin (pictured here) would cost you around £7.50 – less than half the price!

There are cheaper cuts of meat, but even two free range (and I hope you’d buy nothing but) chicken breast fillets can cost £5 compared to £1.60 for a giant butternut squash. I saved money whilst eating vegan, despite the extraordinary expense of vegan-friendly snacks and chocolate, and when I lived below the line my budget didn’t allow me even the tiniest scrap of meat, unless it was a Tesco Value frozen sausage.

My parents, I think, managed to fund a trip to Bermuda from the money they saved by not eating meat for three decades.

5. You sleep better at night

lambI’m not going to bang on about how cruel it is to eat animals, or scare you with horrifying statistics… all that information is already out there, and a quick browse of Peta’s website is enough to put you off meat for life.

I have no problem with people buying, cooking and eating meat in front of me, as long as the animal in question has been treated with due care and consideration, and the eater understands what it is on their plate. Indeed, I still eat meat on rare occasions (it's difficult to avoid in this job), but wouldn't touch anything but the organic kind.

However, I still find the idea of taking away an animal’s life for our passing pleasure very uncomfortable. Especially when I know that meat is so unnecessary for our wellbeing. There’s something so… disrespectable about slaughtering a cow, only to turn it into a squashed patty, slapped into a processed burger bun and eaten unceremoniously next to fries. 

And those people who are fine with Chicken Kiev, but buckle at the idea of eating a fluffy guinea pig, or a pretty horse? Pish. So shallow. Animals is animals; either stick to your guns and eat ‘em all, or stand by your principles and roast a butternut squash instead.

What do you think? Before you tell us in the comments box below, read Andrew Webb's counter article: The future for meat eating is responsible, ethical and traceable

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