The Food Chain – Why Vegetarians Are More Annoyed With Each Other Than They Are With You.
When the host of a dinner party is informed by his missus that one of his guests is vegetarian, there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Cries of “There’s always fucking one isn’t there?” and “If God didn’t want us to eat animals, why did he make them out of meat?” And so on and so forth. There is much moaning about having to use separate utensils and cook a separate dish, in a way that just wouldn’t happen if the guest in question had been allergic to nuts or fish.
This wouldn’t really be a problem if a dinner party was just a matter of inviting friends around for food and drink. You’d happily go the extra mile for someone you like. Of course, if they were your friends and you did like them, you probably wouldn’t inflict a dinner party on them in the first place. Dinner parties are usually the result of some kind of work or social obligation or a pretext to get two people to get off with each other.
Annoying as dinner parties are, people do throw them. Meat eaters are, in truth, not really annoyed about the extra cooking duties. They are annoyed that, when vegetarians invite them around for dinner, the courtesy is not returned. There is no separate dish with a bit of steak in it. Just purely vegetarian food and lots of low level evangelizing about its benefits.
By the way, this is not written from the perspective of a life-long meat eater. I was vegetarian for quite a number of years. Though I didn’t turn to vegetarianism for moral reasons. When I was 21, I was on the dole and survived on a diet of Bombay Mix, tea, toasted sandwiches and marijuana. Unsurprisingly, I got very fat. I was bemoaning my self induced fate when one of my flatmates, who was a vegan, said : “Why not try going veggie mate. As long as you don’t live on cheese and peanuts, the weight will drop off you.”
So I thought “Ok, I’ll give it a go” and I became a vegetarian. And the weight did indeed drop off me. I went from 14 stone to about 9½ stone in a matter of months. I didn’t starve myself either. I ate like a fucking horse. I also met a lot of other vegetarians. This is when I found out about the Vegetarian Hierarchy. I was bemused to discover, as someone who had up until fairly recently been a life-long meat eater, that vegetarians looked down on each other even more than they looked down on carnivores.
Vegetarians don’t actually hate meat eaters as such. Vegetarians regard their meat eating friends, even the clever ones, as sort of errant children who haven’t grown up enough to realize a supremely important universal truth. In fact, they’re a bit like Christians in that respect, hence the low key evangelizing at their meat free dinner parties. It really is more a religion than it is a lifestyle choice.
This is why different types of vegetarian can’t stand each other. Piscetarians, who include fish in their diet, are looked down on by Lacto-ovo vegetarians, who allow themselves to eat dairy and eggs. They in turn are looked down on by Lacto-vegetarians, who think milk is ok, but eschew the fruit of the chicken’s cloaca. They are regarded with disdain by Vegans, who exclude all animal products from their diets. Though this could be considered a little uppity from a group of people whose name is just a lame pun. Vegan is a contraction of vegetarian. The beginning and end of vegetarian. Geddit?
Even the slightly uppity Vegans are looked down on by the Fruitarians, who regard the killing and eating of plants to be beyond the pale and will only eat things which have been harvested in a way which leaves their donors unharmed. Though technically speaking, that does involve stealing and eating the plants’ babies, so I’m not quite clear how it is a loftier principle, morally speaking.
I’ve always likes the idea of the Crockarian, as posited on the old BBC sketch show “Absolutely”. The Crockarian does not eat anything, but survives entirely on the nutrition gained from sitting around in wine bars being smug.
It is the smugness where the problem lies. There are probably many meat eaters who might have converted to, or at least dabbled in, vegetarianism if the words of Bill Hicks “I’d do it if I thought I wouldn’t become one of you” weren’t echoing in their ears.
The most annoying thing about vegetarians is that they are, for the most part, right. Meat tastes lovely, but it’s not very good for you. Not in the amounts most people eat it in anyway. Most meat eaters wouldn’t bother if they had to kill the animals themselves. Vegetarians who actually plan what they eat properly are happier and healthier than meat eaters. The word “vegetarian” itself isn’t even based on the word vegetable. According to The Vegetarian Society, it is from the Latin “Vegetus” meaning “vital” or “lively” and technically refers to any diet which increases your level of energy and makes you feel healthier. This is why Piscetarians can technically call themselves vegetarian. Just. Though even the meat eaters believe they are being bit deluded on that point.
As I get older and my digestive system get less and less efficient, I keep considering a return to vegetarianism. You can’t rely on Lactulose and Germoloids to keep things moving smoothly forever. Eating meat can be, quite literally, a pain in the arse. If I do take the plunge again, I’ll try not to be too smug about it.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2013