As a well-educated, socially aware professional, I’d like to believe that I hold myself to the high moral standards which I’ve gradually come to place significant value in over the years. But we’re all hypocrites and I’m no different. I want to take some time to delve into an issue I’ve grappled with for years – vegetarianism – and why I’ll never stop eating meat even though I know really I should.
Educated from childhood
To provide you with a comprehensive picture of the conundrum I face, we need to travel back in time to the 1990s. This was a simpler time – when children didn’t have smartphones, teens didn’t have Instagram and young 20-somethings didn’t have Tinder – but we did have meat substitutes such as Quorn. During this time, my dad converted to Buddhism, which advocates for vegetarianism, so I often ate these meat substitutes as a child, even continuing to enjoy them as an adult. I know there are meat substitutes out there and I like them, so I’ve got no excuse on that front.
I was raised to place great stock in values such as compassion, both for humans across the world and for the animals which share our planet, by my parents. As an adult, especially as I’ve started having conversations with people who are far more knowledgeable on this topic than myself such as my vegan friend Maria, I’ve come to understand that eating meat in and of itself goes against these values, as we’re harming animals to do so. I’ve considered going vegetarian for years, since I was a young teenager, but I’ve never done so despite believing in my heart that it is the ethical thing to do.
Cold hard facts
If we look at the cold hard facts, we quickly discover that there aren’t many reasons for us to eat meat. The oldest argument here is that we need meat for protein, which the body needs to function, but this is a myth. Meat is a source of protein, but so are foodstuffs such as nuts, kidney beans and lentils, which we can easily incorporate into our diets, and many meat substitutes have them too. There is an argument to suggest that eating meat helps preserve balance in the animal kingdom, as it ensures that no one species becomes too dominant, however it’s not a particularly strong one.
There’s evidence to suggest, that when a vegetarian enjoys a well-balanced diet, their health benefits. According to The Evening Standard newspaper, studies show that a vegetarian diet can help us develop lean figures, lift our moods and lower the risk of conditions such as heart disease. We should also point out that by going vegetarian, we could even help stem the tide of global warming. This is because through their bodily excretions, the cows we rear to create beef release large amounts of a greenhouse gas called methane, which warms the earth’s atmosphere.
Odd man out
The personal, environmental and moral benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle are becoming apparent to the general public. In the UK, a country which once contained a negligible percentage of vegetarians, data suggests that now 2,000 people are choosing to take up this lifestyle every week. Evidence quoted by The Independent shows that since 2016, the number of vegans in the UK expanded to 3.5 million, which in a population of 65 million is nothing to be sneered at. The figures look similar across the industrialised western world, illustrating that this is a trend, not an exception to the rule.
So why won’t I follow suit? Ethically I agree with vegetarians that it isn’t right to eat meat, I recognise the health benefits of this lifestyle and I know that there are alternatives to meat. This is going to sound a tad flippant, but at the end of the day I’m just a picky eater. If I’ve ever told you about how I lost weight before, then you’ll know that I have a passion for chicken sandwiches, meatball marinara subs, sausage rolls and pepperoni pizza. This is going to make me sound like the biggest of hypocrites (which I totally am), but it’s just too inconvenient for me to give up meat.
Looking at this issue, a truth which has long been self-evident to me has become more apparent. As human beings, whether rightly or wrongly, we often prize convenience over moral integrity. Living in the developed world, for example, many of us wear clothes that we know were produced in less-than-admirable conditions, yet we still wear them and this is exactly the same thing. I hope that one day I can live up to my own ideals, but somehow I doubt it. Talk about pessimistic!