Saturday, October 02, 2010

Not Much Of A Choice

Yesterday was World Vegetarian Day, see Span for his own take on the day and a couple of "That's Life" style photographs commemorating the event. I used to think that Vegetarians were up there with the Flat Earth Society and Conservative Central Office in the Top 3 cranks chart but with a daughter who is almost 100% 'veggie' (she still like chicken, but not the sort from the Colonel) my attitude has changed slightly.

I say slightly because I have somebody working for me who is a vegetarian and who is almost permanently ill (making Joanna Lumley's recent comments look even more ridiculous than they initially did), I also have a colleague whose wife is vegetarian but who also has cancer, again making Ms Lumley's comments seem hopelessly misinformed.

Many years ago I was listening to a radio phone-in where the host, Tommy Boyd, said that us meat eaters should really own up and say the only reason we continue to eat meat was because of the taste and that nutritionally it was of little benefit to us. I was driving in the car at the time but headed home and phoned in the national station (it was the old Talk Radio before its reinvention ten years ago as Talksport) to dispute this argument. My contention was that vegetarianism was being sold, at that time, as a lifestyle choice to precisely the age group that should be eating meat, teenage girls. The presence of iron in red meat has been proven to be on benefit during puberty, particularly to girls, and its absence (i.e complete abstinence) could cause problems later in life. Given that Tommy Boyd was always fairly confrontational the conversation did actually develop over a five minute period (a lifetime in live radio) into something approaching a half way house, we covered meat eating, puberty, spots and how spots ruin a teenagers ability to 'pull'. I said I hadn't had spots as a teenager, they had arrived in my early twenties, which was a disappointment as during those germ-free adolescent years I had the perfect skin, fully functional equipment but not the instruction manual!

Anyhoo, last night we went out to celebrate Janis's birthday and headed for a new(ish) chic(ish) restaurant on the seafront. The food there looks arty farty but the portions are huge, the ambiance great and the views across Poole Bay, in one direction, to the Purbecks, and in the other, the Isle of Wight, are fantastic, even at night. What struck me though was that among the fifty odd items on the menu and the 'specials' menu only two were vegetarian i.e no chicken or fish (as some veggies like to eat) dishes, one was mushroom risotto (ironic given that our vegetarian doesn't like mushrooms!) and the other a basil gnocchi.

We know the impact on the world's Eco-system that cattle rearing is having, not just in forest clearance but water usage (either directly or through growing crops for animals to eat) and yet nearly every restaurant tells a similar story. Regular visitors to France will appreciate that until recently vegetarianism was seen as peculiar as fidelity in marriage and not double parking in Paris, in Germany a similar story is told and yet self sufficiency when it is applauded concerns itself with small scale operations such as those in Cuba.

As long ago as 2004 we were being told that, "one kilogram of grain-fed beef needs at least 15 cubic metres of water, while a kilo of cereals needs only up to three cubic metres". Being a meat eater I realise that I am part of the problem but however hard I try I cannot give up meat completely. Even on those days when I feel I can eschew the yearning for a bacon sarnie I will get tripped up by something meat shaped. I cannot offer a solution.


Span Ows said...

Didn't see this before! Thanks for the link. Great to hear of your radio fame.

The health thing is just silly, and a con but I see nothing wrong with providing vegetarian options some of which are tastier (I recently had a veggie lasagne instead of chicken for instance)

Also I know we've commented on this water issue on a few occasions (here's one)

Fish farming has suffered recently but is back on the radar again with most of the big companies and obviously poultry consumption is way ahead, the good thing from a world and water usage point of view as far as meat is concerned is that in many countries red meat is hardly eaten at all: China, India, most of Asia etc.

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