Actually my vegetarian dilemma is non existent. I’m a happy meat-eater.
And I have strange pangs of guilt over my lack of guilt. This may in fact be the quintessential Irish catholic position – the feeling of guilt and self blame for not feeling any pang of remorse or self shame. I may be an atheist but the cultural influence runs deep.
I like animals. I think dogs and cats and guinea pigs are wonderful creatures, capable of joy and sadness. My affection towards farm animals runs more shallow, but I have no feelings of ill will towards them and think that they too are sentient beings. I don’t give the evil eye to a random herd of cattle in a field when passing by, on the big green bus to Limerick. (In any case, even if I was so inclined this may be too time consuming. Interesting fact – the combined population of the Republic and north of Ireland is 6.5 million people, the cattle population is closer to 10 million).
I am certainly aware of the monstrous and cruel practices of factory farming, and I wouldn’t approve of the brutal conditions the animals that make up part of the human diet are raised in. When in a benevolent mood I will try to purchase organic and free range animal products. Perhaps it is only marketing but I tend to believe the hype that these animals live more pleasant and kinder existences than the battery chickens raised by Colonel Sanders.
The reality however is that I feel no real remorse for buying St Bernard burgers or Findus fish fingers. I don’t ponder the previous lifestyle of the great big, dirty kebab, smothered in garlic sauce, that I will occasionally eat on my way home of an evening. I’m a la carte when it comes to animal rights – I will ponder those issues when personally convenient, and not otherwise.
The bottom line is that I like to eat meat. I like the taste. I like the texture. I like every type on the market – chicken, pig, cow, goat, horse, sheep, turkey, fish. I like it fried, roast, boiled, barbecued, stewed. I like a rasher sandwich.
(Regarding horsemeat – I know that this is a cultural no-no in Ireland akin to eating cat; but in the Netherlands there is no such stigma around horsemeat, and in fact it is regarded as a healthier meat, being leaner than beef. It’s tasty).
I’m not someone who moans about those vegetarians and their new fangled ideas.
I have no issue with the zeal of the newly vegan, and their passion for haranguing and judging meat eaters. Good for them. I respect their passion for their chosen cause (and I never mention the fact that the zeal of the convert is the most dangerous and obsessive kind.). And I am aware that stereotypes can be misleading so I try not to think of vegans as grey, malnourished, weaved mung-bean casserole eating do-gooders – that is not a useful image.
I am aware that a vegetarian diet is healthier and can be as varied and as interesting as your imagination allows it to be. And it is for that reason, and that reason alone that I occasionally take a meat free week – for purely selfish, personal health reasons.
Why am I thinking of this today. Well my meat eschewing (although cheese-eating) brother is in town this evening and we are going for food. I got to thinking of where a good place to get some meat-free dinner could be. I’m aware that all restaurants and bars have one vegetarian option – usually a vegetable lasagne or veggie burger or mushroom risotto. But wouldn’t it be better to go for a wider choice?
I am thinking the Hare Krishna restaurant on Abbey Street is probably good. It is called Govindas, and the reviews are complimentary.
And I can pretend to be enlightened and compassionate towards my fellow creatures.
While at the back of my mind I know that the chicken that I roasted in the oven yesterday is waiting for me when I get home.
Gadzooks. Maybe I am a monster?