February 28, 2007

The very word makes me think of Delicatessen, where that subline French disdain for people who don’t eat meat was aired.

For the sake of convenience, friends and family have considered me a vegetarian for the past 16 or so years. In reality, I was only really a proper vegetarian for a few years at uni, avoiding all meat and meat derivatives. Otherwise, I described myself as ‘piscetarian’, being a huge fan of fish and crustacea. But for the sake of convenience,  the vegetarian label was regularly.

I’ve never been a prissing, sqeamish non-meat eater though. During those 15 years, I ate meat on occasion to demonstrate my principles. These principles involved not eating meat because, back in 1990 when I stopped, the industry was almost entirely dominated by intensively farmed meat – where the animal in question lives a miserable life of torture. Seeing pigs in pig units in a documentary made me decide to not eat any more bacon sarnies etc. It’s deeply disgusting that people will happily eat meat produced through intensive methods, simple to satisfy consumer cravings and an insistence that meat be cheap. Supermarkets have a lot to answer for.

All the time I’ve avoided such meat, I also emphasised that I don’t object to eating meat as long as people consider these consequences, and don’t deny that a living, feeling creature has provided their meal. I’ve always said I’d eat meat if prepared to be involved with its production. So, when at Old Man Mountain in the mid-1990s, I proved this by dealing with an extraneous rooster (yep, he did run around headless), and even going pig hunting. Feral pig, deer and goats damage the NZ bush, so surely it’s good to eat them.

Plus, well, game is delicious compared to domestic meat, especially intensively farmed domestic meat.

Since living with Fran, we’ve had a somewhat awkward Jack Sprat arrangement as she’s such an avid fan of meat. And recently I’d begun to think what’s the point in eating crappy processed vegetarian burgers or whatever when good-quality, humanely reared meat is commonly available (at least to those of us lucky enough to have an organic box scheme/decent local butcher/access to Borough Market).

Anyways, since heading off travelling, I’d also come to the conclusion I really couldn’t be bothered to learn “I don’t eat meat” in every language of the countries we passed through. The When-in-Rome principle is significant. So, here and there I had a lump of pork in my noodle soup or whatever. Big deal.

At this point I must say I don’t actively find meat the most desirable food – I love a good bacon sarnie like any sane person, but don’t crave huge chunks of flesh with every meat. I like vegetables and pulses. And cake. However, in NZ, I was tickled to find Jude, who’d tipped me into veganism with her staunchness once upon a time, was an avid meat eater, and had two spit-roasted lambs at her wedding. (I believe they were reared by her elder sister and called ‘Wedding’ and ‘Banquet’).

Since being in NZ, I’ve also been enjoying the strong culture of wild foods, with an afternoon on a boat scalloping (resulting in a very nice dinner), then later on some trout caught and smoked by Alice’s man John, and some venison, which he’d shot. All very tasting. And nutritious, and, compared with the Western world’s grim culture of intensive meat and fish production, reasonably ethical. Nadia also introduced us to the wares of the local butcher, who, I believe, humanely rears his porkers, then slaughters and processes them himself. I didn’t tuck into all of it, but some bacon the other day was great, and Fran and I cooked up an amazing concoction last night involving with sausages (including varieties flavoured with native bush spices).

I’ve not gone as far as trying possum yet, but I’m assuured, if cooked right, that’s quite tasty. And considering the problems caused by possums here (they’re Australian, introduced by our naive forebears and extremely damaging to the bush), it’s surely our duty to scoff them. Well, maybe later – maybe at the Hokitika wild foods festival. We’ll see.

So I’m eating meat. But I still prefer a good plate of roast veges. And cake. And heck, we can’t all eat too much meat, as stock flatulence is a major greenhouse gas, plus the energy conversion rate through meat farming, compared to growing plants for direct human consumption, is poor. Talking of flatulence… well, maybe not, as I believe some of my readers are a bit delicate when it comes such topics.


4 Responses to “Vegetarian”

  1. Rachel (sis) Says:

    Dan – that’s a very earnest discussion (can you have a one man discussion? no, not really), that’s a very earnest entry…funny you mention flatulence though. Have been thinking of you (and the little mouse that lives with you in London and ‘lets off’ all the time, he must have crawled into your rucksack though because I’m sure his presence is still being felt)…I’ve been reading loads of stuff about its contribution to green houses gases but one could argue that eating all that fibre within veggies is far more problematic (and from the brief times we’ve lived in the same house whilst you’ve been primarily veggie, I’d argue that you could probably outstrip any meat eater in that department!). Some scientist should do a study. I was wondering which is worse for the environment – all that flatulance from veggies or the green house gases generated by the meat industry, but perhaps it’s all the more pertinent to compare wind created by a meat eater/non meat eater….

    Glad we’re grappling with the really important issues of the day….(I know, I know, it is….)


  2. Lawrence Says:

    I’m still scarred from going on holiday with you and your parents. I think it was deeply unfair of them to make me share a room with you and your gargantuan gas. Yes, with you gas can be gargantuan.

  3. in all seriousness, i don’t think it’s my diet per se – it’s probably more to do with wolfing my food (and thus swallowing air) and also to do with some dodgy gut bacteria that have lingered over the years. I’m taking some filthy stuff made from grapefruit pips to try and deal with said bacteria…. And having some treatment that should hopefully make my body work a bit better.

  4. Lawrence Says:

    How very honest. And serious. Just carry matches with you (not so seriously)

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