Tuesday, 24 June 2014

My Struggle With Vegetarianism

My struggle with vegetarianism goes way back... In the distant reaches of time, back before Google and keyboards that swipe to when I was first courting my domestic assistant, sometime around 1998. As a bet with my cousin I had spent 1997 totally sugar free and, alongside my new mate, I was looking for new adventures in self exploration. But this exploration was of a more comestible and edible variety, not so much "finding myself" as "finding myself enjoying meat far too much". And so, as another bet, this time with a lifelong veggie, I tried to become a vegetarian for a month.

It started well. One of our first joint shopping trips was to Iceland in Turnpike Lane to buy some Linda McCartney steak and onion pies which, I was assured, was the best you could get. I am not sure, but this might even have be BQ, that most special of lines in the sand for vegetarians.

They tasted OK a little bland on the run, perhaps.  We ate out much more back then and so I had a very quick introduction into how limited our choices are as a vegetarian on the recreational dining scene.  

It was about ten days into this hell that I learnt a brand new word, "pescatarian."  To most people the term "Pescatarian" means someone who doesn't eat fish, and when I first learnt the term,  that is exactly what it meant to me. But language changes, it is a game that plays out and new meanings pop into the game and, if they are useful or have some other linguistic accolade, their new meanings will spread. This is not often good, for example, "gay" used to mean "fashionable and stylish with an accompanying aesthetic erudition" whereas this  has now morphed into meaning merely "happy". The term "meme" used to mean an item of non physically represented information that is subject to the same kinds of survival and success principles as are seen in biological evolution, but now it refers to the experience of seeing an online cat that someone else has seen.

Words change. Langues moves on. Words don’t resemble walking sticks, they resemble trampolines. I knew this then, as now, but back then, I audaciously thought the bounce could be adjusted. “pescatarian", as a term, needed tweaking (not tweeting, of course, as at this time SMS was still a type of Short Messaging Service) and so by day...maybe fifteen... I was pushing for a bit of bet revisionism.

In a French restaurant on Holloway Road  I asked, "How’s about... instead of fish… anything that swims?”

Grenouille. I had eaten it once or twice before, as a teenager, and would never normally have eaten it, but there it was, this could be an out. And after every out, there comes an in and thus this could be, in my mind, a beach-head of the onslaught that would lead me to win the bet whilst at the same  time retaining at least some dignity alongside the legal right to eat a modicum of animal. Frogs swim. Ducks swim. Bears swim...  "this "pescatarian” malarkey might be the one for me….” I must have concluded, I don’t recall.

She said "No". I think probably a little arrogantly, as if there was some super secret code of morals and meanings that veggies had and that we carnies just didn't get. Like when Buddhist monks nod, often very mysteriously, when answering questions about dharma: "That is the higher dharma... And a frog is not a fish"

At that point I gave in. I walked to the ATM (back in 97 they didn't have retina scans in restaurants so we had to go to machines in the wall where you put a plastic card and a special number in to get out paper money) and came back with fifty crisp paper mammon memos.

I bought my way out of obligation and back into the nation, and notion, of We The Faceeaters. I can't remember what I had to eat as meat that night. Maybe it was frogs. Maybe it was horse. It had a face, and I know now  and knew then that, as a member of the human race, it is a disgrace to taste a thing with a face.

But it tastes so good. This is what people who are not carnies don't get. The flesh of another being can taste so good that you crave it for hours, maybe even in real time as it's bouncing through the field on its last full spring morn, you, and me, if we are carnies, we could be craving it.

But it's wrong! It's so wrong. If you are like the vast majority of the human race, wherever or whenever you are from, it's not difficult to see that there are many reasons why being a face eater is wrong. It's wrong for moral reasons, like causing suffering. It's wrong for ethical reasons like damaging the environment. It's wrong for health reasons, at least in the vast majority of animal deaths. Bla bla bla sheep have you any wool to pull over my eyes so I can keep on chewing you for empty but compelling mouth pleasure?

I know it's wrong. It's very close to smoking in being a total nobrainer. And yet, tonight I have eaten the flesh of countless cows combined in a mixer in a factory somewhere in Liddleput and really enjoyed it; I was the Burgermeister.

What's going on here???

I'll tell me what's going on, I am being force fed cognitive dissonance, by my own weak minded mind, which is how cognitive dissonance generally works. I've had it a few times over the years, about various things, most of us do, apparently. But this bout of CD has lasted well over a decade and in the bloody wake of its rampage probably twenty chickens and a third of an Angus has been needlessly killed.

My brother in law, like his sister, is a genuine veggie. He does not quiver or falter.  He is able to be clear and straight about the issues in a way which no carnie can muster without wetting themselves with hypocrisy. I want to be that kind of veggieman.

There is call for an aside here. This is my claim: It is a lot harder for a man to be veggie than a woman.

My reasons for this claim, and this is pure speculation, are to do with the fact that males have a primal protein requirement than females don't and so men should naturally crave meat more than women. I don't know if that's nonsense or not, I would be curious to know. Back to this tour de force fed gosling...

Once you see the state of this issue as it is, you soon see huge, QM like anomalies when you get down amongst the Quarks and Kalemesons. For example, why don't overeaters eat walnuts when they will eat almonds? Is it really because someone told them they were petrified baby monkey brains? Does that mean we could put almonds on the kill list just by pointing out that they look like chaffinch lungs?  If veggies are vegetarian for any moral reason, then how can they wear leather? If a veggie eats a chicken egg then why won't they also eat a fish egg? I can see why they won't eat foi gras, but not why they won't eat caviar. Even with these unanswered questions, I can enter the reason arena and come out completely certain that I should not eat meat.

We need another digression here. Moral beliefs are a bit like electricity and water in that they have a value of volume and a value or pressure, or  amount and time, as it were. So my belief that faceeating is wrong is full in the conviction sense, but not full in the moral sense. I would much rather eat a dog than torture a cat, for example. "I'm sure it's wrong but I can't help doing it...  I'm just going to wash my hands, they have that juice that comes out of beef on them”.

One option is to man up and be stoic and just not eat meat. I try this and have tried it so much over the years. In fact I'm trying it now, since dinner. I'm on a trajectory to be meat free. But I know I will fail. In part I will fail because I'm weak. But also because my urge and desire to eat meat is so strong. We carnies know what I am talking about, such struggles.

I'm a big fan of vegetarianism, I'm in the supporters club and I get a lot if their merchandise, but I'm just not a good enough player to commit for life. I play little league, and sometimes I drop the ball, not because I’m not trying but  because I'm stuffing my face with the liver of a lamb.

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