July 6, 2015

Going the Whole Hog

Six months ago, I gave up eating meat. No chicken, no beef, no fish – nothing with a face.

As a self-professed foodie, the task seemed daunting. Sometimes the word vegetarian itself is enough to strike fear into our food-loving hearts, conjuring up other such horrifying notions as ‘low-fat’ and ‘gluten-free’. Pops was adamant that I must be constantly hungry and unfulfilled while Mama Bear was fretting about the seemingly inevitable weight loss. (To clarify: there has been none. A few pounds extra, if anything.) There is also a bizarre misconception that vegetarian meals are lacking in flavour. Spinach lasagne? Satay stir fry? Chickpea burgers? Sweet potato fries? CHEESE? I rest my case.

Dining out has proved to be the real obstacle. While our vegan/paleo trends have transcended into many menus, there often tends to be one sole veggie option amidst a sea of delicious items you cannot have. It’s like when Emirates sadistically parade you through First and Business class before plonking you in Economy where you belong.

After the six month mark, the Quorn reliance proved too strong. As a lifelong meat-eater, I found I was constantly looking for protein replacements to revolve the meal around. I surrendered to roast chicken and although the taste was undeniable, I didn’t feel like a blind woman whose sight had returned. Admittedly, I felt weak.

The thought of eating animal flesh now grows more unappealing by the day. I balk at the sight of raw fillets, bloody steaks and cold fish eyes staring at me. SO contributed by exposing me to numerous food documentaries which showed thousands of chickens cooped up in rotten sheds with blacked out windows. ‘Isn’t it awful?’ he exclaimed, munching on a Snackbox while I was having a Lisa Simpson-esque crisis of guilt.

It seems funny that we were so repulsed by the Yulin Dog Meat Festival in China, despite the fact that we eat pigs who have the same IQ as our loyal companions. Just because they’re not as cute, it’s OK to eat them? Similarly with the horse meat scandal; we wouldn’t dare to willingly eat the produce of those majestic creatures, but give us a big lumpy cow any day.

I am not trying to preach the mantras of PETA and scream ‘MURDER! at people for wearing fur. I adore eggs and will continue to buy leather shoes. And I still think meat is delicious. I do however, think we should cut down on our meat intake and where possible, buy free-range only. Yes, it’s more expensive, but by boycotting huge corporations, we are reducing demand for cheap meat production which means less overcrowded slaughterhouses and an end to inhumane conditions. Animals do not willingly surrender their existence; it is taken from them and we should respect it.

There is an official word for people who practise this form of reductionism: flexitarian. While the idea behind the movement is admirable, the label is off-putting. I do not wish to join the ranks of pollotarians, pescetarians and people who are strict vegetarians ‘but do eat chicken, and the odd burger?’ Go home.

Ignore the label. Unless it says organic.