by Bryony Hockin
A Response Piece to ‘Snowed Under: People! We Are What We Eat…’
I’m not easily offended, but the article, ‘Snowed Under: People! We Are What We Eat…’ really is a prime example of why some people shouldn’t be let near a computer to spew forth their opinions without a care in the world. I fully understand that many of the suggestions – such as advocating cannibalism – were made in jest, and I can appreciate them as being deliberately satirical. But casual slagging off of vegetarians has got to stop.
I have been a vegetarian all my life. I was brought up vegetarian, and I was given the choice very early in life whether I wanted to stay vegetarian. It is something I feel defines me as a person and also, fairly obviously, I do not enjoy the idea of eating dead things. My being vegetarian is a dietary choice that I see as very similar to some of my meat-eating friends’ claims that they “don’t do vegetables”. Were I living in more impoverished circumstances or had no other choice, I would immediately stop.
I am not vegetarian to make anyone’s life difficult. Catering for vegetarians, say at a dinner party, is not a huge challenge. If you can’t separate two pans of pasta sauce and leave the minced beef out of one of them, then I think perhaps it would be best if you didn’t hold dinner parties any more. If the author has never met more than one vegetarian in his life before, I must ask, where did he grow up? Mars? In this modern world it’s not an uncommon lifestyle choice, nor is it something to be shunned because it makes your life oh so inconvenient. For many people being vegetarian is a religious issue, which makes the author’s opinions doubly offensive.
Most vegetarians see their decision as a personal choice and therefore have no objections to others eating meat – so long as you don’t try to either make them eat meat, or exclude them because they don’t eat meat. I don’t mind someone asking me why I’m vegetarian, in fact I will gladly explain it, but what I loathe is being faced with a meat-eater who tries to convert me. I have never forced my vegetarianism down anyone’s throats, so why meat-eaters seem to think it’s acceptable to leer “Go on, have some bacon!” at me I don’t know.
I find that there are two types of meat eaters; the ones who eat meat for almost every meal, and the ones who don’t. The ones who don’t generally have a much more down to earth approach to vegetarianism, because they understand a little about a healthy diet; the main point of this being, eating meat for every meal is not healthy. Meat-eaters of the first type, however, who can’t seem to go without their bacon fix for five minutes, tend to be a lot mouthier about an issue that they don’t understand at all. Unfortunately the author seems to fall into the first category. I would be angry with him, if it weren’t for the fact that he will likely die several years before me from heart disease.
I resent the claims that being vegetarian is likely to cause health problems such as anaemia or physical weakness. I have never experienced any of these symptoms and I consider myself perfectly healthy. The fact that the author considers anaemia a likely consequence of vegetarianism merely shows how ignorant he is of basic food science. Red meat is not the only source of iron on the planet, nor is it the best. It is entirely possible to have a healthy, balanced diet when vegetarian, and to do this you have to understand food groups – which ones contain protein, which are carbohydrates and which are fats. I daresay it’s healthier than some non-vegetarian diets. In fact, recent studies confirm that diets high in processed meats were linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer and early deaths. How do you like that sausage now?
I am sick of being vegetarian and having non-vegetarians assume what it must be like. Frequently I have to put up with sub-standard vegetarian food cooked by non-vegetarians who could, with a little education, understand my dietary requirements, but choose not to. I do not need them preaching to me about what they think of my life choices. Nor do I need them hauling the subject of vegetarianism through the mud in an opinion piece about an entirely unrelated issue. It seems that the author has tried to bulk up his word count by adding his penny’s worth on a subject that, considering his misinformed and frankly offensive opinions, would be best left alone.
Photograph: Malakwal City