I gave up meat when I was thirteen because I could no longer reconcile the contradictory imperatives of desperately loving animals and desperately wanting to eat them. I did fourteen long, miserable years without meat. It was awful. If you’re a vegetarian, don’t be cross. Just understand that I was born a carnivore. There wasn’t a day when I didn’t long for a nice pork chop or some roast chicken or a rare steak. I was nearly sacked from a hotel I worked at as a teenager because the chef caught me with a lamb shank in my hand, sniffing it with great and anguished longing.
Aged twenty-eight I couldn’t take any more. I started eating meat again and was happy. A lot healthier too, actually, although I’m sure committed vegetarians would tell me otherwise. But as I said – I was just born a carnivore.
Nonetheless, the hypocrisy of it all has gnawed at me ever since. I’m the kind of person who’ll burst into tears driving past a field because one of the cows looks like he’s just been dumped by his girlfriend. I routinely weep when I see lambs because I know that most of them are doomed and the other day, when my friend Bert read out the chapter in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s MEAT book about how terrible life is for intensively-farmed pigs, I cried uncontrollably. There’s also been a growing sense of unease about the amount of antibiotics pumped into intensively-farmed animals that I must be ingesting, not to mention the hormonal imbalances that miserable, stressed animals were probably passing on to me in burger form.
So I called a halt. Not to eating meat, because that would be madness for me, but to eating meat that’s had a shit life and offers me the nutritional properties of a turd steak. I gulp at the expense of organic, free-range, local, happy – but, well, bollocks to it. If it means compromising on other expenditures – things like nail varnish that simply don’t matter -then so be it.
And I’m genuinely enjoying my food more. Really, truly. I mean, I always enjoy my food. Probably more than I enjoy conversation or human company. Erm. Today’s bacon sandwich brightened up a grey morning because I knew the piggy had spent his time rooting round a field in Somerset. Last night’s wild venison casserole (eaten in pyjamas in The Man’s edit suite because he was working late) was all the more tasty for its wild roaming-round-local-woods provenance.
Guilt-free meat is a new a very welcome addition to the life I love. It makes me feel happy, not guilty. RAH!
(By the way. After I went to the effort of driving a beautiful casserole to The Man’s edit last night – even bringing a bottle of wine – he repaid me by getting into bed later and letting off the loudest and most awful fart I’ve ever heard.)