I talked to a few people about my week going ‘vegetarian’ (see previous post) and since then a few of them have asked ‘Are you still vegetarian?’ The answer to that is ‘no’, but, to me, the interesting thing is binary-ness of it. It’s like you are either a vegetarian or not. There is no middle ground in that you’re allowed have meat every now and again. This seems like a bit of a problem if we’re going to try and encourage more people to eat less meat.
This is because being a ‘vegetarian’ seems to come with certain criteria. Firstly, you’ve got to have a reason not to eat meat. And that reason has to be quite strong in order to overcome the pleasure of eating meat. And those reasons usually are (meat is murder; Climate Change; poor animal conditions; animals have feelings too). Further, the vegetarian’s have their own bit on the menu (usually at the bottom), their own restaurants and their own brands (e.g Linda McCartney). So, in many ways they are set apart and ‘different’ from the mainstream. To what degree this is desired as a means to make a statement about themselves or to what degree this is merely for the ease of making choices, I don’t know. But what I do know is that it makes them different and I don’t think that most people want to be seen as ‘different’. Especially when it comes to something as basic and fundamental as food. So, I think that the vegetarian’s are shooting themselves in the foot. By creating segregation, they are deliberately creating a line that people will be unwilling to cross. People don’t want the finality of restricting their choices.
So, one answer is to create a new ‘label’. In walk ‘Flexitarian’. It’s the term for vegetarians who eat meat now and again. (Apparently Gwyneth is one darling). Now other than it being the most ridiculous label I’ve heard in ages (Hi, no, I’m not a vegetarian, I’m a flexitarian), it just adds to the desire to cut things up into neat piles. There are thousands of different foods which make up millions of combinations to eat. To try and categorise what you eat seems a bit daft to me.
So, what to do? Well, on the one hand I’m just going to keep my mouth shut and just cook and eat what tastes great. However, people need to eat less meat. How to do that? Using the stick of ‘vegetarian’ to seems counter-productive. Perhaps instead it should be about how great meat tastes if you only eat it once a week. Make it about the pleasure of rarity, rather than the evil of eating it at all. Might just work.