Why do you eat meat?

What's the Beef?

What’s the Beef?

I became vegetarian when I was 8. I don’t really remember what my reasons were but my parents’ tell me it happened after I watched Dr Doolittle and was won over by his persuasive songs. This may well have been the case but all I remember is one simple thought that has stayed with me for the last 23 years…

‘It is wrong to cause suffering for pleasure.’

I don’t know where this thought came from and I don’t know why I attached it to the idea of killing animals – maybe I was surprisingly literate and heard it was wrong to kill a mockingbird, who knows. It is such a simple idea that I am still to this day amazed that people feel the need to ask me the same question

‘Why don’t you eat meat?’

Isn’t it obvious?

‘It is wrong to cause suffering for pleasure.’

People who eat meat always look shocked if you reverse the question and ask ‘Why DO you eat meat?’ as though that is not a conscious choice and I can only imagine for many of them this is the case. I find this truly startling. Something as important as whether you are going to be responsible for the death of other creatures isn’t even something you are going to make a decision about? You are not going to consider it? You were brought up eating meat and so that’s OK? Odd. It is similar to those people who are convinced the one True faith is the one they just happen to have been brought up in. What a coincidence…

When meat eaters are confronted by their decision to eat animals they tend to come out with the same excuses. That is fine with me. I have more respect for those people who have thought about NOT eating meat and decided to continue than those who have never considered it at all. I guess it is because I remained a vegetarian for so long before going vegan. Some of the arguments they give are the same that I would have done (health, money, lack of knowledge). I thought it might be worth considering some of them here.

All the vegans I know are self-righteous and preachy. This is one I most often encounter online (big shout out to all the Guardian Word of Mouth crowd). This is a simple argument to counter. ‘Don’t be one of them. It isn’t catching’. It also isn’t true of course. Most vegans don’t bring the subject up unless asked but I guess no one likes their world view being challenged.

It isn’t healthy. This is what I believed for a while when I was stayed vegetarian. I had been brought up believing that calcium only came from milk and that I needed protein from eggs. A healthy vegan diet needs some thought and planning, but that any diet should  have some thought and planning anyway. A balanced vegan diet is as healthy as any other balanced diet, and because you are pushing meat and dairy off your plate there is a lot more space for nutrient dense vegetables and fruits that come with fewer side effects.

It isn’t natural. I love this argument, often heard now grunted by followers of the Paleo diet. What is ‘natural’? It is probably natural for us to steal, rape and murder, we make the ethical decision not to do these things. I don’t really care what we had to eat thousands of years ago, I care about what we can eat now.  The fact that we no longer have to cause suffering to animals to survive is something we should celebrate. One argument that comes along here is B12. This vitamin isn’t in a vegan diet. It is produced by bacteria that gets consumed by animals (usually in the form of a supplement added to their feed) and then gets into humans that way. Skip the middle man and take the supplement yourself.

It is expensive. At the moment a lot of food is expensive and a vegan diet can be as expensive as any other if you want to eat well and have a lot of variety. However it doesn’t have to be expensive. No Meat Athlete had an excellent post a while ago extolling the virtue of ‘A Grain, A Green and A Bean’ cooking. This is incredibly cheap and incredibly healthy. It may well be that there are people out there in LEDCs (Less Economically Developed Countries) who cannot afford to follow a vegan diet, let us be thankful that we are not one of them!

It isn’t a solution to all the environmental problems of the world. No kidding. It certainly solves some of the huge problems created by the animal farming industry but no, of course it isn’t perfect. Let’s not pretend it is – it is a small step towards treading lightly.

Vegan food is boring. Only as boring as the person cooking it. I have never eaten a more varied diet. It forces you to look as food in a new way and try new things. Each meal now is a celebration and the food feels good as well as tastes delicious. This is probably the hardest point to explain to anyone who hasn’t tried it, and is a very different feeling to going from omnivore to vegetarian. It is a radical change in the way you are cooking. There are some really exciting cookbooks out there to give you inspiration (Isa Chandra and Bryant Terry are two of my favourites).

My friend tried it and… Well, your friend was probably an idiot. OK, a little harsh. When I was a vegetarian I didn’t have the knowledge to convert to veganism. I tried it and failed a couple of times. I didn’t understand enough about nutrition, I didn’t know enough about meal planning and I guess I didn’t have the will power. Going vegan isn’t easy but it is not as difficult as you may think. There are loads of great resources out there to get you started and thousands of people just waiting to offer help and support.

What do people say to you if you don’t eat meat? And if you chose to eat meat, can you explain why?


21 thoughts on “Why do you eat meat?

  1. Hello

    I’ve heard the accusations that vegans can be self-righteous and preachy, though I’ve never encountered it myself (or been accused of it!).

    B12 – Marmite is a good source

      • Marmite (UK) is now owned by unilever who are involved in animal testing. So depending on you stance then, like me, some vegans might not consider it vegan.

      • That is very true. You might like to check out my post “Is it ethically vegan” in the Vegans Rock menu for my thoughts on the issue. Briefly – I think we need to keep animal-free products available in the mainstream. Marmite is also something of a shorthand for ‘Yeast extract spread’ but sounds less revolting. I would rather people thinking about becoming vegan realised B12 was not a major issue and gave it a go then never went vegan at all. They can then explore the issue of evil-multinationals at a later date.

      • Marmite IS vegan as it doesn’t contain any animal products. You may as well argue that anything sold in a supermarket isn’t vegan as they also sell meat. Have a look at my post “is it ethically vegan” to see my stance on that 🙂

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  5. None of those reasons. I eat meat because I want to. I want to because I am built that way. I don’t think you or any other person who has chosen not to eat meat should be convinced or forced to eat meat. It’s a decision you came to on your own and that’s great. In the same way I do not think you should try to convince or force any other person to not eat meat. You go under the guise that they may never have thought about it. That may be so, but it’s not your right to investigate that. You and every other person should go under the assumption that they have made an informed decision. You say that you have never met a preachy vegan… and yet here I am reading a website you made dedicated to it. The irony astounds me.

    • @required What an odd post. Do you believe that child abuse is morally right? If not, do you feel you need to keep that opinion to yourself and not impose your own moral ideas on others?
      If everyone believed as you did we would still be slave owners!

      I don’t think I have preached at you. You have come here and decided to read this. I don’ t go to church and moan about how preachy it is.

      Frankly you don’ t seem very smart 😦

  6. @required – there are several elements wrong with your statement.

    “None of those reasons. I eat meat because I want to. I want to because I am built that way” – this is actually covered by the entry headed “It isn’t natural”

    “I do not think you should try to convince or force any other person to not eat meat. You go under the guise that they may never have thought about it. That may be so, but it’s not your right to investigate that. You and every other person should go under the assumption that they have made an informed decision.”

    You are telling the blogger that they shouldn’t make presumptions or try to convince people of other viewpoints, when you are doing exactly that. I can’t think of any rights being infringed by someone putting their viewpoint across. And leading to your last point:

    “You say that you have never met a preachy vegan… and yet here I am reading a website you made dedicated to it. The irony astounds me.”

    “Preachy” suggests actively and repetitively trying to convince others of your viewpoint. Outlining your own argument logically on your own blog is not doing this. Visiting someone’s blog and telling them what rights they do and don’t have…well, that’s verging on irony.

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  9. In real life, if somebody asks, I tell them my personal feelings, and let them make their own decision (and hope they change their mind). But, in my blog, I feel like I can be a bit preachy since those offended can just shut the page. I gotta go. It’s time to make some black bean/onion/tomato dip and sit down with some warm corn tortillas and an old movie…

  10. I have considered a vegetarian/vegan diet for a long time – I agree with everything you have said! I have one problem, in that I cannot eat grains or legumes. My diet is therefore already restricted, and I struggle to see how I could eat a nutritionally-balanced plate without meat, eggs, dairy or grains and legumes … does anyone have any suggestions? I would be very keen to hear what people in this situation do. Thanks!

    • That is a really difficult one. Is there are reason you cant eat ANY grains or legumes? They are a very varied bunch off food stuffs genetically. Is there a certain protein you are allergic to?

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