Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is the man responsible for ruining my life. I curse him every morning, for it is he who convinced me to become a vegetarian. After watching an episode of a series he released four years ago, in which he exposed the cruelty and horror surrounding chicken farming, I cried myself to sleep and woke up determined to become a vegetarian – despite the fact that I was, and am to this day, a meat-lover. And this is one of the biggest misconceptions about vegetarians: that we were all somehow born lucky enough to hate the taste of the food our principles forbid us to eat. While there may be some lucky bastards out there to whom this applies, the majority of us love the taste of meat, just like you all do – we just don’t let ourselves eat it. Not content just to deprive myself of all my favourite foods, I am now going to give you the oh-so-despised vegetarian rant in the hope I can persuade you, if not to give up meat entirely, to be a little more aware of what you’re eating. But ask yourselves this one question before I start. Why is it that we all hate the vegetarian rant? We hate it because we know it’s true. I can’t often say it so I am going to milk it, today, in this article: I am right. And you all know it.
The overwhelming motive for going vegetarian is undoubtedly that it is cruel to eat meat. The chicken sandwiches you’ve consumed in your lifetime did not come from happy little hens clucking round Old MacDonald’s farm. It’s a lot less Old MacDonald and a lot more ‘let’s see how many chickens we can crush inside a miniscule space for 30-odd days before we hang them upside down and bleed them, often before they’re even properly dead, because it’s such an inconvenience to have to kill the chicken before starting the preparation process’.
Ultimately, when you are tucking in to a sausage roll, you are saying that your comfort and convenience is more important than a life. Whenever I confront my friends about becoming a vegetarian they always say exactly the same thing: ‘but I would die without meat’. I would like to put this rumour straight, guys: you will not die without meat. I am not dead and I haven’t eaten meat in over four years. The simple fact is that if you eat meat, something has to die, whereas if you don’t eat meat, nothing does. Sure, there are times when I want to have a chicken burger, but that’s me being selfish. Unless you go free range, meat-eating is cruel, and even then it’s still pretty cruel because the whole killing them thing is still happening.
Saying that, free range is a good start and if you genuinely believe the world will stop turning if you can’t have any more bacon sarnies, at least try and get free range bacon. To quash another rumour, free range is not that expensive. But if money really is an issue, do you know what’s even cheaper than not buying free range? Not buying meat at all! Anyway, the meat industry is contributing directly to climate change, so in buying ham you are basically paying for the world to end. And that’s just stupid. Another, more unknown benefit of vegetarianism is that it could pretty much wipe out world hunger. If we ate the crops that our farmers grew, instead of feeding them to the animals we’re raising for meat, there would be no more food shortages. A field can only hold a couple of cows, only enough to feed a handful of people, but the wheat it can harvest could feed hundreds.
Finally, a meat free diet, far from killing you, is actually healthier. Meat offers nothing that a vegetarian diet cannot easily provide, other than a lot of excess fat, and there are a lot of delicious vegetarian options out there. So all I ask is that you just think about it, even if thinking about it leads to no other conclusion than ‘all this talk of meat is making me really crave a roast dinner’. Vegetarianism is better for the environment, better for the animals, better for your wallet and better for you. That said, even I do not underestimate how good a kebab tastes after a night out. It’s a tough call, but you know I’m right.