News headlines of late have been littered with Extinction Rebellion, air quality, electric cars, the reduction of coal powering power stations and the latest David Attenborough environmental programme. At a time when climate change is converging ever more into the public eye, conversation about the vegetarian diet has never been more topical.
Almost three years ago I made the switch. I cut out bacon, sausages, Sunday roasts. But it’s all been worth it. Before, I would go piscetarian over the lent period. It makes you think about your food differently, question what’s in it, where it came from, who might have handled it. I came to realise that generally, I did not consume an awful amount of meat anyway. But that didn’t stop the cravings for pork scratchings during the early stages!
It was a particularly inspiring philosophy lecture that prompted me to go veggie: on Peter Singer’s personhood. He carries the pioneering view that animals have personhood, even going as far to say that they have more personhood than newborn babies and people in comas. This goes against Aristotle, Plato and Descartes who deny that animals have spirits. He’s actually convinced Richard Dawkins too! As funny cat videos and animal rescue centres take social media by storm, I don’t think we have ever cared more about animals more.
More than protecting animals, we are being encouraged to cut down on meat in order to reduce carbon emissions: Whether that might mean only having meat dishes on weekends. You can cut down nearly a quarter of your carbon footprint by simply cutting down on red meats, such as beef and lamb. Being carbon conscious is increasingly trendy, with vegetarian menus cropping up (shout out to Wetherspoons who do a fantastic veggie breakfast!) and vegan cafés.
However this brings into question the farming industry. And a dilemma. Is it better to let these slaughterhous animals to die out so they no longer suffer but do not exist? It would affect biodiversity for one thing. We have breed cows so much that the Chillingham Wild Cattle in Northumberland are one of a few natural cattle left in the world. Check out Bong Joon-ho’s Okja on Netflix for a vivid dystopian view of meat farming.
Ultimately, I enjoy being veggie. It’s a challenge to minimise the suffering of animals I respect as possessing personhood; and it reduces my footprint. Although I am not entirely sure I could commit to being vegan (and I have full respect to anyone who does!), maybe one day I will take that extra step. For now though (without coming across as an angry radical vegetarian!), I would encourage anyone looking to contributing a small change for the wider good to look into flexitarianism!