A Converting Carnivore.
‘Surely if slaughterhouses had glass walls, would not all of us be Vegetarians? But slaughterhouses don’t have glass walls. The architecture of slaughter is opaque, designed in the interest of denial, to ensure that we would not see, even if we wanted to look, and who wants to look?’ – Joaquin Phoenix, Earthlings (2005).
Going Veggie is something I hadn’t considered until coming to uni. I’d never really been exposed to it, never really met or knew any Vegetarians or Vegans back in my hometown. But with Glasgow named the most Vegan-friendly city by PETA in 2013, I felt it was time to do some research, and this was the place to start.
With scepticism I entered the meat-free world, unarmed and unprepared, and I’m surprised to say, I’ve learnt a lot. Having met so many Veggies and Vegans in the past year at university, it soon became clear I was a minority. I had no previous inclinations to change my diet, having been a carnivore for the past 20 years and relatively healthy, I did not feel the need to, but I was never going to stick to this 3-week Vegetarian mission unless I fully understood why people made this sacrifice.
So I resorted to shock-tactics. Exploring a number of documentaries in the past, the shock-factor had soon worn off. Until I saw Earthlings. Stumbled upon by accident, I was met with a dystopian insight into humanity’s utter dependence on the animal kingdom, drawing on the food, fashion, pet, science and medicine, entertainment and sport industries. The film’s unflinching look at the depths of human brutality and depravity, presented in a number of graphic hidden-camera videos, expose our corrupt capitalist meat industry in particular.
If you can get through the trailer I commend you.
I was ignorant of the processes used to kill, maim, and torture animals for our pleasure, ‘need’, and greed. Sure I knew how slaughterhouses worked, but video evidence of repetitive anal electrocution of innocent animals such as raccoons and dogs for their fur, and the terrified look in their eyes, made it difficult to justify being a carnivore in 2015, and a mass consumer of other animal-related material goods. I’d always prided myself on my refusal to wear real fur, and avoidance of real leather, but my hypocrisy at allowing this to happen, sometimes unwillingly without my realising it, indirectly contributes to this evil.
As a lover of seals, I found it difficult to watch such brutal footage, yet on a near-daily basis I rely on other animals as a means to indulge, and not really to survive.
This three-week experiment was easier than I anticipated. I found giving up alcohol much easier than meat, which probably says something quite significant about me! Having good influences all around me at uni, including my flatmate who has been veggie for years, made me think a lot about my current lifestyle. Local venues like The Hug and Pint, and Munro’s helped me explore interesting meat-free alternatives. As a student, adopting a Vegetarian diet for cheap-skate reasons is a good way to go, and aside from all the animal brutality, I don’t trust myself with cooking raw meat properly. So in the name of health and safety, I don’t tend to buy meat or cook meat.
On the other hand…
I’m half Sicilian, and a quarter Italian. In which case I am a food addict, accustomed to a life of meat and dairy, pizza and pasta. Recognising myself as a Vegetarian, is about as daunting as coming out as gay to traditional Sicilian grandparents. The culture and social side of eating, particularly in my family, where I don’t have a single Vegan or Veggie, I fear would be greatly jeopardised and problematic. Would I be outed as a nuisance? And what about Christmas dinner? Family meals, eating out?
When I began researching into Vegan and Vegetarian lifestyles, I realised just how common they now are. Even the likes of hyper-macho Hollywood superstar and my personal hero, Woody Harrelson is a strict Vegan!
Living as a fully-fledged part-time Veggie while at uni at least, is a start. Things probably won’t change overnight; this isn’t a sudden one-size fits all epiphany. The last thing I want to do is come over all preachy, high and mighty, despite how it may seem. But I would like to change, and even if I do continue to eat meat, at least now I’m not ignorant of the process.
Health-wise I can give or take. I hate all forms of exercise, but try to eat fairly well. Swapping a juicy beef burger for a Veggie burger was at first sacrilegious. However, over time, I found myself unfazed by this one small change, and it opened my eyes, saved me money, and made me slightly more adventurous in my cooking.
Jokes aside, I leave you with this thought,
‘Of all the creatures ever made, man is the most detestable… He is the only creature that inflicts pain for sport, knowing it to be pain’ – Mark Twain.