I haven’t eaten meat or fish for the past forty years and in all that time I have never been remotely tempted to regress. On the contrary, I am now trying to stop consuming ALL animal related products and switch to a completely plant-based diet.
The wisdom of following a vegetarian lifestyle is, to my mind, beyond dispute and arguments for taking this one step further towards veganism are equally compelling.
It is relatively easy to explain why I don’t eat raw steak, ground veal or chicken legs but the processes that lie behind the mass production of eggs, milk and cheese are just as closely tied to barbaric factory farming methods. You don’t have to be overly squeamish or sentimental to see that the routine practices of animal agriculture are increasingly indefensible and unsustainable.
One time carnivores and omnivores might have been able to claim that vegetarian alternatives were hard to find. Now that kind of counter-argument simply doesn’t cut the mustard. Labeling is now much clearer than it was and you no longer have to feed your habit in a back street hippy shore or search for food items in a shop resembling a pharmacy. Any supermarket worth its salt with now have sections devoted to those with more enlightened tastes.
If you say you don’t eat meat or fish in a restaurant there’s a greater chance that you will be presented with a more imaginative alternative than an omelette or the kind of salad that looks like a rabbit’s lunch. Also, soya-based products no longer look like ingredients for a dog’s dinner and seem more adapted for human consumption.
I have lived in Emilia-Romagna in Italy for the more than 20 years and the slow but sure sea change has been thrilling to behold. Daily products like soya milk cappuccino, vegan pastries or ice cream, all of which would have been practically unimaginable two decades ago, are now both easy to easy to find and socially acceptable. As a consequence, while there are still many who probably think I’m a crank, there are fewer who will come right out and say it.
Nowadays, if you enthuse about ‘gourmet vegetarian food’ you are less likely to be accused of being oxymoronic. Above all, if you declare yourself to be a vegetarian or vegan, you will not usually be met with expressions of puzzlement or pity.
Like the links being smoking and cancer, it is now broadly accepted by even the most conservative medics that a diet dominated by dead animals is bad for your health. It is also become more evident to the public at large that fast-food nations are also hugely damaging to the environment.
If you doubt the truth of any of this, I’d recommend watching eye-opening documentaries like Earthlings, Forks Over Knives or Cowspiracy plus reading books like Jonathan Safran-Foer’s Eating Animals or The China Study.
Now,if I am ever asked (either with or without a patronising tone) ‘Why are you a vegan/vegetarian?’, I usually reply with the question: ‘Why are you NOT?’