How can you say you “respect” something you also eat? I ask you. Or whose milk and eggs you take away. Who is disposed of once past its ‘useful’ life.
Today’s Observer Food Monthly is a vegetarian special. Its editor Nigel Slater seems to have been taking lessons from the irritant food critic Jay Rayner on the enduring food world pass-time of Bait the Vegetarian. His thesis: his love of bacon sandwiches, which trumps his deep urge to become vegetarian, is vindicated by his deep love, knowledge and appreciation of live animals and the humanity with which the ones he eats are reared and killed.
He writes in faux penitence “But it’s still eating dead animals. No matter how good a life they have led”. And directly after that he writes “I’m not proud of it” and in five small words consoles his conscience and dispatches the opposition. “I’m not proud of it” he says piously “so you can’t blame me” he means. We all have our bad habits, after all, and his include – all in the course of this minute editorial – touching meat, eating roast pork and the objects he cooks in its juices, pork pies, sausages, lamb cutlets, chicken breasts. Why write about it, Nigel? When you conjure up “a bird with its beautiful plumage strutting proudly in the farmyard”, or ” the cute little lamb … frolicking in the field” and then with cleaver-like abruptness puncture these idylls with images of you eating them, I see a disingenuous, broken-down attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable – the contents of your fork and the contented living animal. You know you can’t. You say it yourself. But whereas you work hard to make us find your conflicting urges poignant – “It is simply that a bacon sandwich will always get the better of my conscience” – I can’t square it. It’s a dodge too far.
I loved meat and I gave it up. Later on, I gave up cheese, eggs, milk, butter, mayonnaise and meringues. I want everybody to give it up – because it’s the right thing to do for the animals we eat and take from, for the wild animals that live on the land we take up to farm animals and food for those animals, for the growing human population whom animals cannot sustain, for animal farming’s contribution to global warming – and because I don’t want to be tempted by it any more. Meringues. Meringues. I gave up meringues. Souffles, fools, pannacotta. It took half my life to achieve it (just over two years ago now) but unlike you I never rebelled against my conscience, I never dug my heels in. I never said “never”.
Come on, man – don’t rub our noses in it with this talk of what you can’t deny yourself. Because we vegans need you people to save us from soya, stir fry and ‘cheese’ made of potatoes. We need some proper, radically original cuisine and we need it to percolate to our local places. So tell Locatelli, tell Ramsay, tell Rayner.
I write this because you don’t answer my (2) emails.