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Point / Counterpoint - Carnivores vs Vegetarians

Author: Nick Jarvis and Ossian Elkington
Thursday, 13 September 2007
By Nick Jarvis

Poor vegetarians, they’re always getting a hard time. No one ever thinks to cater for them, their culinary options range from the joys of tofu to the delights of kidney beans, and their vege-belly farts mean no one can stand being within 40 feet of their Hare-Krishna-curry-eating arses. It’s hard to feel sorry for them, though, when their pale sickly skin and watery eyes are self-inflicted.

Did anyone ever see those billboard ads sponsored by the meat industry, professing how if our ancestors hadn’t eaten meat then our brains would never have grown and evolved into such marvellous sentient organisms- That’s right, if it wasn’t for roasted mammoth rump we wouldn’t have interactive TV and self-buttering popcorn. Now I know that the advertising industry is Satan’s town crier, but in this case they’ve got a point. Protein builds muscles, beaks down into essential amino acids and converts into carbohydrates for energy – in short, without it you’d end up looking like a World Vision ad. Do you know how many lentils you’d have to eat to get the same amount of protein as a juicy t-bone- About twice as many (it’s true, Wikipedia it), and even the Iron Chefs would have trouble finding a fun way to cook half a kilo of lentils every day.

Besides, to paraphrase Vincent Vega, meat tastes good. Chops taste good, ribs taste good, an almost blue, dripping with blood, seared on the barbecue New York cut of rump tastes really fucking good. Sure, I know that the animal whose flesh I buy at the supermarket has probably lived a life of pain and deprivation, that it’s been slaughtered cruelly and that the farming practices used to grow it and generate its feed are destroying the environment but, uh, fuck it. I also know that by consuming electricity and international air travel I’m causing irreparable damage to the environment, but I’m not about to start living by candlelight and hitchhiking to Europe.

Let’s do a quick pop quiz – which would you rather be: the T-Rex or the Brontosaurus- Sure, the T-Rex has useless little Thalidomide arms, but everyone knows he’s the bad arse because he’s the carnivore. He gets to stomp around being all Alpha-saurus while Bronty cowers in the mud chewing swamp weed. And that’s the meat of the matter – predators rule and herbivores drool.

By Ossian Elkington

Being a vegetarian, you always get assailed with questions like ‘Where do you get your protein from-’, ‘What’s wrong with eating steak-’, and ‘What would you do on a desert island with only cows to eat-’.

You soon find out no one is interested in the environmental and ethical reasons behind your decision to not eat meat. They don’t want to know why you’re a vegetarian – they want to know what’s wrong with you. Trying to talk with a pigheaded carnivore about the hormones and antibiotics festering in their meat is as useless as those graphic images of diseased lungs on packs of cigarettes. You’re not going to change someone’s worldview with statistics – when they’re munching down on a steak or dragging on a cigarette all they’re thinking is, ‘God that tastes good, you poor bastard you’re really missing out!’

Once you get tired of arguing the ethical value of vegetarianism you tend to start deflecting questions with jokes. Only takes a short while until this also starts becoming mundane. Classics like ‘carrots don’t scream’ and ‘I don’t eat food that had a face’ are getting old and worn nowadays. To make matters worse, you occasionally get someone joking, ‘How many vegetarians does it take to screw in a light bulb-’ Grinning widely they tell you, ‘Two, one to change it and one to check for animal ingredients’.
The worst conversations to have about vegetarians are about people’s stereotypes of what kind of people they are. Now I know stereotypes are a real time-saver but I’m not a malnourished hippy or hiding an eating disorder and - once and for all - no, I didn’t get locked in an abattoir when I was a kid.

I just happen to think that, to quote Morrissey, ‘Meat is Murder’. Don’t get me wrong - I’m not some vegetarian Nazi who thinks you’ll end up paying a higher karmic price for eating meat. It’s just that meat is, quite simply, intentional killing of animals.

However, meat is murder in another way, because it threatens to kill everything on the planet – even you carnivores. A United Nations study from last year reckons 16% of all greenhouse gases come from livestock. A large part of that is from cows continually farting methane into the atmosphere. So next time you bite into a juicy rare steak just consider how every mouthful is taking us one fart at a time into oblivion.