Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 6 April 2020

Observing Life: Tough judgment for a vegetarian who sometimes eats meat

I'm a vegeratian... kind of. Because there are, erm, what we'll call special circumstances where I might, very occasionally, partake in meat.

Rob Garratt

I am totally fed up with being told off for eating meat — not by vegetarians, but by meat eaters.

Allow me to explain. Since the beginning of the year I have been kind of vegetarian. I say “kind of” because first of all, strictly speaking, I’ve been sticking to a ­pescetarian diet (eating fish and seafood) — but that term tends to just confuse people further.

And secondly, because there are, er, what we’ll call “special circumstances” in which I might, very occasionally, partake in meat.

For restaurant reviews, for example, it’s a professional necessity (to be fair both to the readers and the venue). I reckon family gatherings ­deserve a special status, too (it would be rude not to, mum-in-law). Travelling must also be ­exempt — it’s part of the ­experience. How could I possibly visit Elvis’s favourite steakhouse and not try the ribs?

And what about when it’s going in the bin anyway?

Or maybe, even, when I’m ­really, really hungry and I stop at one of those garages on the E11 where the only ­veggie ­option is those pre-packed Dh4 egg sandwiches ...

It’s at this point that I ­expect many readers to be screwing up this page in disgust, or mentally penning a vitriolic, guilt-inspiring email.

I know your kind — I’ve met you before.

Because if you tell people you’re a vegetarian who eats meat “occasionally”, you’re in trouble. The onslaught of rage, guilt and disbelief you’re likely to encounter feels like you’ve committed the most heinous of betrayals.

And the weird part? It all comes from meat eaters, ­because you’ve switched sides — and then let down the enemy’s cause.

Their thinking goes thus: you’re weak-willed — you’ve made a stand and you can’t even stick to it.

My thinking goes: the world’s not black and white.

I won’t get into the ethics of eating animals here. But it seems clear to me that ­whatever one’s motivation for pursuing a vegetarian lifestyle — whether it be grounded in ethical, environmental, health or financial motivations (my reasons, incidentally, are roughly split between all four) — less is better than lots.

Of course, I appreciate some people hold religious or spiritual beliefs where absolutism is a cornerstone of their abstinence, and I mean no offence to them here.

But if I eat meat, say, once a month, I’m 30 times ­“better” than someone who eats meat every day. There are 30 times fewer animals being butchered on my watch, and the environmental effect is being reduced by a similar factor. I’m hopefully slightly healthier and better off, too.

You’re the one stuffing yourself with slaughtered cows and factory-bred ­poultry. So why are you having a go at me, again?

rgarratt@thenational.ae

Updated: June 21, 2015 04:00 AM

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