Why is Jay Rayner threatened by vegans? (asks Matt)

Further to my earlier post on Jay Rayner’s studied ignorance about vegans, here is a guest post from my other half Matt. Why is Matt suddenly blogging? He tells me it’s because he has “something to say”. So I’m giving him a home here until he finds his feet on the rolling blog-o-barrel.

Why is Jay Rayner so worried about vegans?

In today’s Observer we had more stuff about being a vegan and whether meat is still a viable foodstuff. The big news was that carnivores’ pin up (and vegan hate figure – although not in this household) Jay Rayner has spent a week as a vegan.

Now it will not come as a surprise to anyone who has even a passing knowledge of JR’s work (can reviewing restaurants – mainly in London – be classed as work?) that such a committed carnivore found a week without meat somewhat difficult.

As the half of the household that is vegetarian and not vegan, I do have first hand experience of the difficulties of catering for a non-animal diet. But I do mostly manage to see this as a challenge rather than a terrible burden – the fact is, at home it doesn’t really impact on our diet very much. Certainly one thing we do mange is to consume nuts that are free from animal products – interesting that a sophisticated palette such as JR’s is eating something that sounds quite so manky.

Now, I must get to the point (if only so I can go to bed) and rather than continue to be rude about JR, which I know he enjoys from veggies and vegans, there is a particular aspect of his argument that I find annoying. Aside from the rather tedious references to whether animal-free diets lead to a lack of energy and inability to get out of bed (which given that Flesh has been on 3,150 mile walking holidays in the last 3 years seems unlikely), JR is consistently worried about the following things:

  1. The fact that vegans are denying themselves the pleasures of the flesh. Why does he care? I am assuming this leaves more dead stuff for him.
  2. The fact that being a vegan is hard (and not helped by strange additives to nuts like milk powder). As JR admits he doesn’t invite vegans over for dinner, this seems a strange thing to trouble him.
  3. Given that we agree being a vegan is hard, abusing them for using a bit of junk food seems unduly harsh (especially from a consumer of lemon and coriander cashew and macadamia nuts), no the burgers and sausages aren’t the real thing, but if I wanted a gourmet meal I would be cooking from scratch (as we try to do, work/social life allowing). As JR listed at least one world cuisine that can do without animal products, I will save time by not producing a long list of great dishes that happen to be vegan.
  4. On a similar theme, he sees vegans as picky eaters. Given that for the most part, this is an ethical choice which as he admits requires quite a large measure of self-denial, to lump them together with the fussy and faddy seems unfair
  5. I won’t even bother to list the non-cheese options you could put in your sandwiches, and as he then moaned about carbs later, probably best to go for a salad anyway.

So at the end of this, what conclusions might we draw? Perhaps JR is worried about the poor vegans denying themselves carnivorous pleasure. Seems unlikely from the man who admits he denies himself the carbs he craves. Perhaps he thinks that we should be more considerate of the poor chefs who clearly find it difficult to cope without meat, let alone eggs and dairy. All I can say is read his article, or refer to point 3 above.

In the end I am left thinking he is just annoyed by people who have made different choices to him and perhaps a little bit worried that the glory that he takes in the killing of animals for him to eat may not be entirely necessary. Rather than fall for his rather transparent baiting perhaps the vegan community needs to try and help poor JR.

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