Abraham Lincoln, Morrissey and erm…Pamela Anderson. What do they all have in common? That’s right they are all (or were) vegetarian. We now live in an age where vegetarianism is more widespread than ever before and thanks to groups such as The Vegetarian Society, there is increasing awareness to all things meat-free. Yet, there still appears to be somewhat of a stigma attached to vegetarianism, making it the butt of many a rubbish joke.
Go into any decent shop or supermarket and what do you find? Whole sections dedicated to veggie food. Brands such as Quorn and Linda McCartney Foods specialise in offering meat-free alternatives and foods that are veg-friendly. Surely this is all indicative that a fair proportion of society are vegetarian, right? So why do many vegetarians still feel that they are subjected to much ignorance and even derogatory treatment from our meat-eating counterparts?
There are different variations of vegetarianism within the whole ‘vegesphere’ (if i can claim that as a real word). Some people eat fish but still refer to themselves as vegetarian. Some people are more relaxed than others about consuming animal products such as gelatine and rennet. Some vegetarians become distressed at the prospect of cross-contamination of their food, whereas others aren’t as fussed. People have a range of reasons for becoming vegetarian, from animal rights to simply just not liking the taste. Regardless of levels of strictness and reasons, vegetarians should not be made to feel almost discriminated against for their own personal life choices.
I was once at a barbeque with people that I didn’t know very well. Now barbeques are not my top choice of activity on a sunny day but as all my friends and family are meat-lovers, they sort of become unavoidable. Anyway, at this barbeque someone informed me that they had very kindly prepared me some vegetable and halloumi kebabs. Brilliant, I thought to myself, I can cook them before the meat goes on. Unfortunately I didn’t get there in time and my kebabs were grilled right next to a big slimy piece of duck and served up to me in all their duck-fat glory. What was I to do in this situation? If I spoke up, I’d face being seen as ungrateful and fussy, as well as creating a scene. If I said nothing and politely nibbled away at the kebabs, I would more than likely vomit…thus still creating a scene. I decided to go with the former option and faced some peculiar looks and questioning. “Why won’t you eat it, it wasn’t touching the duck?”, “Why is it that you’re vegetarian, anyway?” You get the idea. Vegetarians generally don’t want their food anywhere near where meat is or has been. Surely that’s just common sense?
So why do we still see so much ignorance veered towards vegetarians in this day and age? I’m of the opinion that it has much to do with the fact that vegetarians are still a highly under-represented section of society. I mean how many vegetarians do you know personally? I don’t know many at all. We are seeing some changes in relation to attitudes and the acceptance of vegetarians so my hope is that this can only progress as they years go by. Some of my recipe posts have been followed by comments such as, “now all you need is a big bit of chicken to go with that” (yes mother dearest, you are guilty of this). However harmless in their intent, those comments are swiftly deleted (sorry mum).
Due to just about everyone I know eating meat, I am constantly surrounded by it. I don’t preach. I try not to wince or complain. So this attitude really needs to be reciprocated. Afterall, vegetarianism is merely a life choice, not a disability (despite what some may say!). Now I’m off to munch on some carrot sticks…