One of the great things about Christianity is that no food or drink is forbidden by God, because he created it all for our sustenance and enjoyment. We can eat pork, beef, genetically-modified corn and products containing palm oil. However, this freedom that God has given us is to be used responsibly. After all, as anyone in the capitalist West knows, there is such a thing as too much freedom of choice.
So, I became 99% vegetarian six years ago this month. Writing out the last sentence, I’ve just realised how long that’s been. I was a voracious meat eater. My nickname at home was ‘Mr Mutton’. I didn’t hate vegetarian food; after all, coming from Hindu background, I was accustomed to having to refrain from meat on occasion. But, in my experience, vegetables, for the most part, just weren’t that tasty.
Then I interned for the Environmental Law Foundation, both to build up some legal experience and contribute to the protection of the environment, something that I have always been passionate about. For once, I was working with people who had even more passion than I did and I think one or two of the members of staff was vegetarian. I was also taking phone calls from people looking for legal redress for environmental problems and being exposed to a lot of environmental literature.
Clearly, it all rubbed off on me because one Saturday I woke up and decided that I should be vegetarian – somehow I had absorbed the idea that the meat industry, through the chopping down of forests for grazing land and the process in general, released a large amount of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. So, it looked like one massive boil on my ecological foot(print) that needed lancing.
After a lifetime of eating meat, I found it surprisingly easy to give it up (more or less). There was no gradual weaning off, I just went ‘cold turkey’ (pun intended), indeed a lot easier than other things I have tried to give up. On the one hand, this was because I not only believed that it was the right thing to do but also that I could clearly rationalise it. But there was more to it than that. I loved meat and I do still miss it, especially when I smell it. The rational belief was enough to make me give it up but the existence of decent vegetarian alternatives – soya, quorn, tofu, mushroom – minimised the cost of doing so. Interestingly, I found that vegetables were tastier than I remembered. But again, coming from an Asian background, vegetable dishes were always an essential part of every meal. Even without the meat-free alternatives, being vegetarian was not that much of a difference to my diet.
Unfortunately, being 100% Vegetarian isn’t possible. There are a number of times where I have found myself the only vegetarian among a group of people. In the context of a dinner party, it is perhaps not always convenient to cook especially for just one person. Even in Asian cooking, stock can be meat-based. And, of course, I don’t believe it is morally wrong to kill animals, just that we should eat less meat to protect the environment. So, for the sake of not causing too much inconvenience to others’, there have been times where I have been prepared to eat meat. A meat intake of zero offers a more room for maneuvre than a near-maximum meat intake.