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15 August 2011

Carnivorism 2.0

I'm not a vegetarian, though I have been in the past. In the end, I don't think there's a convincing moral argument that eating animals is wrong (though I'll spare you the details of my reasoning). On the other hand there are overwhelming arguments on health, economic and environmental grounds that people in our society ought to eat a lot less meat (again, I'll leave out the details - any number of websites will carry the debate about this).So if, say, 20% of people became vegetarians, it would be a Good Thing. Even if you can't bring yourself to give up meat, you ought to be glad if other people do.

These days, vegetarianism can mean two things. The original meaning is simply not eating meat. But now people possibly expect a vegetarian to be a strident crusader for not eating meat. Vegetarianism 2.0 is a campaign as well as a dietary option.

What I think has been less noticed - though possibly not by vegetarians - is that carnivorism has its preachy wing too. As always, my frame of reference is Come Dine With Me, where the carnivores typically don't only not know what to cook for vegetarian guests, but panic at the prospect of a vegetarian meal. Some go further, and suggest that people are wrong, morally wrong, for not eating meat. Well, if there's no moral argument in favour of vegetarianism, there's certainly no valid moral argument against it. (Except this: if you drink milk, you should be prepared to eat veal.) And it's perfectly possible to have a healthy diet that doesn't contain meat, as hundreds of millions of Indians will confirm.

When I was a vegetarian, I faced this kind of defensive hostility all the time. I didn't understand it then, and still don't. I think there's going to be an outbreak of carnivorism 2.0 tonight, when a team of vegetarians appear on Only Connect. I'll be following this on twitter and I'll be looking out for the funny comments about how weak and pale and generally wimpish they seem to be. I might make a drinking game of it. I'll be pissed before the missing vowels round.


1 comment :

KF said...

I wrote a lengthy, rambling blog post about being vegetarian (or even vegan) despite being born into an Iranian/Parsi family and loving meat and non-veg food as a child. http://bit.ly/lrlF7v if you care to read it. Rather than a shameless plug for my mad ramblings, the reason I mention it is because I make a similar point - that whether one is vegetarian or not, there is nothing worse than being a fantatic crusader when it comes to individual food choices.

I have dealt with the preachy meat eaters, and I've also had to put up with many snide comments and idiotic remarks over the years because I'm not a carnivore! On the other hand, because I'm involved in animal rescue and animal rights, I also hear the fanatical vegans/vegetarians. I find both equally irritating and offensive.

I agree with you when you say that nowadays vegetarianism 2.0 is a campaign as well as a dietery choice. Raising awareness about how eating meat affects the environment is a good thing, but preaching vegetarianism at every opportunity is not.

I COMPLETELY agree that anyone who drinks milk has no business telling someone else not to eat veal, or anything else that involves killing an animal.

As a passionate foodie (those halfwits on Come Dine with Me who insult vegetarians should come to my hut for a meal) - I cook mainly Indian and Persian vegetarian food (that is probably vegan, except that I hate labelling everything I eat).

I think the defensive hostility you mention is something most vegetarians deal with, whether from strangers/friends or family members. I tend to make a joke of it, or let my food do the talking!
I think the fanatical "meat is murder" brigade may be partially responsible for this hostility - I for one would slap anyone who dared tell me what to eat and what not to - whatever their moral/ethical stance.

Nicely written!
KF