Wednesday 19 April 2023

Do we veggies deserve a 'holier-than-thou' reputation?.


This post was inspired after reading my blog-pal JayGee's ('Going Gently') own recent posting of some calves mourning the (permanent) absence of their mothers, though he does not, as I do here, cover the topic of vegetarianism:-

One of my most vivid childhood memories is when I was maybe ten or so, out with two of my brothers plus one or two of their friends (I'd never had any friends of my own up to that age, and actually till later still). We happened to be walking by an abattoir at the same time as a herd of cattle was being ushered out of a truck and into the building. I can still recall the animal's faces mooing pitifully, they obviously (one assumes) being completely unaware of the grizzly fate which was immediately ahead of them. I see them even now. Feeling profound horror for the animals myself, I'd heard about abattoirs but had never thought any deeper about it. I think this experience may have been the seed which was, a very few years later, to turn me away from meat-eating for the rest of my life (other than some minor, isolated lapses).

The heading to this post is not something I've ever heard expressed so starkly as I do, but it's an attitude I regularly pick up when reading - or hearing - 'between the lines'. I may be mistaken but it could well be the way I would feel myself were I a meat-eater. 

When I've found myself with a group in a restaurant (in the past, usually a works gathering) and it came to ordering one's meal, sometimes I'd be asked "How long have you been vegetarian?" or, a trifle more insidiously, "Why are you.......?" I can hear the curiosity, which is fair enough, but I also detect a burgeoning unspoken irritation on the speaker's part. When the question comes, which I dread, most especially in an eating establishment, I have to bluster about the subject, trying to avoid it directly yet closing it down, at least until in a less inappropriate location.   

The fact is that my awareness of an animal having had its entire life sacrificed, probably in some horrific and painful way, in order to give me (plus a few others) a few minutes of pleasure is always hovering so real in my consciousness that I could never truly enjoy the experience of eating it. Added to which is a secondary reason, viz the realisation that eating animals is not, by and large, essential to my survival. (I'll expand on qualifications to this shortly).


So, how do I feel about those who, though being aware of my arguments, nevertheless choose to eat meat? (I include fish and seafood generally in the word). Well, I have to confess that I do wish there were more vegetarians in the world - or, better still, vegans. But as far as I know I have never attempted to 'convert' any carnivores out of their practice. That is for them to decide, though I'm pretty  sure that many of the latter feel that we'd jump at any chance to preach our philosophy, and which, I've no doubt some do. However, I reckon such a ploy is largely counter-productive, only succeeding in getting the backs up of their target audience, a reaction which I can fully understand.  

Our 'goody-goody' reputation, if it does exist, stems not just from a dislike at seeing animals suffer needlessly, but a general wish of wanting the survival of beings vulnerable to man's endless whim to end creatures' lives, sensate beings who often have such pathetically short natural existences anyway, protected and, indeed, respected. 

Although I am emphatically not religious in any way, in early posts of mine I've mentioned my reading a Biblical passage most days (i.e. at least 95% of days) for now getting on for 60 years - as well as a daily passage from the Koran (in at least 5 different translations) - in addition to the Hindu Bhagavad-Gita and also various Buddhist texts. What is striking about the Koran, as far as I can make out, is that it's totally devoid of expressing any affection for non-human beings. I think I'm right in saying that Islamic countries have next to nothing regarding the legal protection of animals. As such I would never want to visit such countries where, even a chance visit to a market would be bound to reveal a tethered sheep, goat etc waiting to be sold and used to slaughter for Halal meat, doubtlessly often inexpertly done with an entire family spectating the horrific act. Observing such a creature destined for such a hideous end would ruin the rest of my stay in that country - and would remain in my mind for still longer. 

The Bible's New Testament, at least, mentions in Jesus' parables, the value of sheep, though that is really only as a commodity, a means of income for the shepherd/farmer. In the Old Book there are, it is true, a very few odd verses in Genesis and Proverbs which speak of the mistreatment of animals as being cruel, though such is not an oft-recurring theme in the volumes - and the Bible is particularly down on dogs.   

India, because of its wide acceptance of Hinduism has strict laws against the mistreatment of cattle though, as far as I know, little else for other animals. Buddhism is, as far as I know, the sole major religion which recognises the value of all life - including plants - though not necessarily all on a parity. What I find most difficult to cope with is its doctrine of standing back and dispassionately observing life ('awareness') in detached manner without recognising an absolute necessity of intervening to alleviate suffering in another being where it's possible - or maybe I haven't fully comprehended the guidance/doctrine.

I'd ideally like to become a fully-observant vegan, and for at least a decade I've strived in that direction. I'd describe myself as more than 90% there now. (Milk now has to be exclusively non-dairy - for me preferably oat- or cashew-milk). However there are two or three areas where I haven't made it, a major one being that I just haven't been able to acclimatise myself to vegetarian cheese though I have tried and tried. I find there a bland same-ness, even between varieties which try to mimic dairy cheese 'flavours', almost unpalatable, though I'm sure they'll get better in time. All my life I've been quite an avid cheese fan though have now certainly well reduced my intake of dairy cheese. In my fridge at the moment is a portion of French Brie as well as a some Philadelphia cream cheese spread. Also I'm quite partial to Cheddar, Red Leicester, Double Gloucester as well as a number of Dutch and French cheeses, though without going totally overboard for any of them.   

Additionally, for common-sense health reasons, especially for someone of my age, I take daily cod liver oil tablets to postpone the onset of getting painful joints (even though, regarding fishing, I cannot bear to see it taking place - to witness a fish being hauled up out of its natural habitat and suffocate in the air I just cannot watch). Also, acknowledging that being vegetarian means going without certain essential vitamins, I take daily B12 tablets to compensate for what plant-based foods cannot provide - as well as, incidentally (odourless) garlic tablets, an ingredient well beloved of many but which I myself cannot tolerate in food, including just its smell, though appreciating that it's especially beneficial towards a healthy heart. .

When I mention my exceptions to true veggie-ism, so many times the person I'm explaining to will gleefully pounce on my admissions as if it punches a hole in my definition of being veggie, even going so far as if it invalidates all aspirations to achieve my ideal and, on at least one occasion, calling me out as a hypocrite! But being not totally consistent is merely one aspect of human nature. If I say I don't have a great affection for Mozart's music, yet absolutely adore around a dozen of his piano concertos, does that make me a liar? Enough said?

Looking this post over it reads more heavily serious than I'd intended - as well as being longer - but we'll let it stand. I've said more on this subject than I've ever said to anyone up to now, though hoping it hasn't bored the pants off you. And I still don't know the answer to my question at top. Perhaps someone can respond with a suggestion..........?