But now I know.
|A lightbulb moment - the coeliac understands why she's vegetarian|
I shall give the weak one chance to escape. “Are you sure you want to be raising this over this family breakfast / work lunch / Christmas Dinner while you’re all eating bacon and sliced beef and rack of lamb?” I shall offer, cracking my knuckles. Those that persist are asking for it. So here it is.
My moment came because I used to walk to work through the fields, along the edge of a meadow containing sheep. “Good morning!” I would fancifully call and, because they got used to seeing me each day, they would greet me back and some would walk along side as far as their enclosure allowed.
Now, I’m not a farm girl so it was a delightful surprise to me when one morning a lamb appeared with them and, that evening, another. Over the coming days quite a picturesque little group had collected. Have you ever sat and watched lambs? They play all the time. When they’re first born they stay close to their mother, all timid and wobbly, but as the weeks go by they get braver and more adventurous. They make friends with the other lambs and go off to explore the furthest reaches of their space, trying to climb on hay bales, falling off and turning it into a leap so’s not to be embarrassed in front of their little lamb mates. They are intrigued by a butterfly landing and scared by loud sudden noises. Watch them this year, they are adorable and hilarious.
Anyway, back to the vegetarian bit. One day, as I was coming back from work, the mothers ran towards me, wailing. The panic, the terror, rolled off them in waves. “Whatever’s the matter?!” I exclaimed and looked around for the lambs and not a one was to be seen. The lambs had been taken for slaughter.
The mothers walked along side me the whole way and I swear they were crying. Even the ones who normally didn’t pay me much attention joined us and walked along in silent misery. I didn’t have anything to say to them, but I knew this: I wanted no part in their sadness. I couldn’t look them in the eye, could never travel this way to work, if I’d sat down for a dinner of one of their children. It was a pivotal moment and I began wondering why I’d ever thought it was okay.
Would you eat your pet dog? And I don’t mean if you had to. I mean because he might be quite tasty and you could have him served up with his ribs sticking up on your plate which you could rip off and dip in bbq sauce? Or, put him on a spit with a fruit in his mouth and invite your friends round to see slivers of him sliced off and put in buns for you all to eat together in the garden? If not, why not? Because dogs have a personality? Well, newsflash, so do the other animals, we just don’t ever get to know them because we keep them imprisoned their whole lives. In some countries it’s perfectly acceptable to eat dogs.
I’ve read that a calf has the same awareness and intelligence as a three or four year old human child. Think about that. Would you eat a three or four year old human child? What’s the difference? Because their Mum and Dad would stop you? Just like the cow tries to prevent her calf being taken? Or because it’s wrong, fundamentally wrong, to kill and eat a sentient being?
And what about disabled children, are they fine to eat? They might find it hard to defend themselves, may find it impossible to communicate with us, so what, exactly, is the difference? Why is that wrong, but another living creature is fair game?
Because we’ve been doing it for ages. Because we can. Because we don’t think about what we’re doing.
There are lots of reasons to choose to be vegetarian, from damage to the environment to effects on your health. These are just mine.
Whenever meat is in front of me, I’m transported to the confused, terrified moments just before that creatures death. The smell of blood, the stink of fear, the cries of those further ahead on the conveyor belt. Do you think they don’t know what’s coming? Would your toddler?
And I remember those trapped mothers, crying for their stolen children.
The question looms as it is so often asked; “So, why are you a vegetarian?” Bring it on. “Why are you a meat-eater?”