After 31 and half years of being a vegetarian, this month, I started eating meat and fish again. It wasn’t a rushed decision. It was something I had been considering for years. And no one thing triggered it. There were lots of reasons.
The first reason for eating meat was that I no longer believed my original premise for becoming vegetarian – that it was morally wrong to kill animals. I had not believed that for many years. But the status quo was that I was a vegetarian and I needed to be convinced to proactively change.
Not a question of taste
For many years I have been asking people who eat meat to convince me that there was a moral reason why I should eat meat. Nobody even tried to convince me. Most just said they ate meat because it “tastes nice”. That was not a good enough reason.
Just before Christmas I read The Meat Fix, by John Nicholson. The book has its inconsistencies but contains some interesting observations and ideas that I have since looked into. About two months ago I read every word on the Vegetarian Society’s website and was just not convinced by any of it.
We have to kill animals. Obviously you’d kill a fellow human being in self-defence. The same goes for animals. But as a vegetarian you soon start to widen the definition of self-defence – you kill mosquitoes, then flies and then mice in your house and so on. The lie, like the animals, gets bigger.
In reality, we’re part of an ecosystem, a food chain. We must protect that – by not feeding diced up dead animals to vegetarian livestock (the cause of 1984’s Mad Cow disease), for example. There is an ethical element to our position within the food chain, but it does mean we should eat meat.
Then there’s the health side. After my stroke, when doctors could find no explanation, the one thing they noticed was that I had low vitamin B12 levels – B12 only comes from animals.
My (also vegetarian) stroke doctor told me to eat more cheese. But my healthily low cholesterol levels rose. I switched to B12 injections. I don’t want to have injections to replace something I could eat.
Then there’s the question of alternatives. Do you realise how processed a lot of vegetarian food is– soya mince is chemically constituted from the leftovers when soya beans have been processed beyond recognition.
I was at the launch of Quorn when I was the chemical correspondent on The Engineer. It was invented by ICI, owners of Dulux Paint and inventors of various plastics, fabric and fibres. What was I thinking eating chemically developed and manufactured products?
OK, so we ate mainly healthy vegetables and pulses but we ate a bit of bought-in so-called “healthy” stuff that was actually a chemical miracle. And just think how much chemical engineering must go into making sunflower or olive oil into a solid “healthy” alternative to butter.
So, my plan is to eat meat and milk and cream and butter (not spreadable butter) and eggs as well as the healthy vegetables and pulses. It will be in moderation – I won’t be eating meat or fish seven or even five days a week. What I will be cutting out is the processed food made in huge factories.
Think global, shop local
I will be trying to eat meat from free-range, grass-fed animals and fish from sustainably fished sources. I am currently using local butcher Wellbeloved of Deptford and Soper the fishmonger in Nunhead. But I will visit farms and buy from other sources.
I became a vegetarian aged 16 in the first term of sixth form (do you remember when you knew it all?). I decided that it was morally wrong to kill animals in a naïve belief that all animals are equal. Actually, some animals are more equal than others.