Perhaps one of the most common contentious and infamous debates, especially amongst students, is the vegetarianism/veganism argument. Many of us have a general idea about at least some of the living conditions of farm animals, and many of us are appalled by them; the media, social media, and the advocates of a meat-free diet have all done well to expose the poorest of these environments. The chicken, one of the most farmed animals in the UK, are up there with the worst: battery farms for the egg-laying hens, and steroids for the meat-chickens to accelerate their growth, their legs unable to support the rapid weight-gain. The Human Slaughter Association state that 950 million birds are slaughtered each year in the UK for human consumption, and the organisation Animal Equality says that over 56 billion farmed animals are killed a year globally, an amount equated to over 3,000 a second. In spite of all this knowledge, I, like many others, have not become meat-free.
Though I am shocked by these numbers, they do not compel, or have ever compelled me, to abstain from meat entirely. It’s not dissimilar to appeals for human aid: we feel sympathy – how could we not? – but a large proportion of us don’t help. Having said that, I have in fact recently been pushed towards making a change, and I have now cut down my meat consumption by a sizeable amount. I didn’t watch another documentary on Netflix, or read a sensational article. No, it was simply because my friend, Niall, had been cooking me vegetarian meals for the last few weeks, and I had not missed meat in the slightest.
I do not, however, want to be a vegetarian; I simply love meat too much. If I go out, then I will eat meat. On a Sunday, I will eat bacon. I will not feel guilty for buying a Cornish pasty if I fancy one. I am, in fact, in no way perfect, and I can accept that. This is not to say, though, that the realities of farmed animals didn’t contribute to my decision in some way, because they have. It is just the fact that I was so stuck in my rut of thinking that I needed meat in my diet, or even that meals needed meat in order for them to be tasty. My favourite food is now vegetarian chilli, which, I might say, I make a mean meal of.
As I have said, I am in no way perfect. I know that I should buy my meat from the butchers, but I choose the easy option and buy it whilst I’m at Tesco. Everyone in my house uses far too much of our free heating, but I compost everything I can. I know that I’ll never be able to go full vegetarian, and I can accept that, because I don’t need to be.