So, I don't eat meat any more. No more dead animals for me. Except fish, because I'm clearly a hypocrite.
I feel, looking back, like my whole culinary life has been a gradual journey to this point. I've never been a big meat eater, although until a few weeks ago I was happily enjoying KFC with the best of them. Still, there's been no single event that made me make this decision; it just... happened. There was no sudden revelation, no dodgy burger, no pet lamb cooked for Sunday dinner. But there are reasons for this if I think too hard.
This is where I have to explain myself.
First and foremost, I don't like meat much. Chicken's never been a problem. Or a nice crunchy bit of back bacon. But real meat, a thick chewable steak or hunk of baby sheep, has never done it for me. It has an awful texture, it's hard to digest and it's surely very similar to eating a dead person. (Interesting aside: Bill Bryson once said that he'd never eat a doner kebab because he didn't want to consume anything that looked so remarkably like it was "calved from a dead man's leg." Still hungry?) So, red meat was the first to go a couple of months ago. Although by red meat I clearly don't mean bacon, because I'm a hypocrite.
Of course, so far I've only excluded the meat I don't much like, and chicken's still on the menu. But at the back of my mind there's always been the niggling knowledge that this is wrong. Always. It can't be right to cause suffering to another thinking, feeling, sentient being for no good reason whatsoever. And before you say it, it isn't a good reason. Very few people on this earth have no alternative to eating meat. You can argue all you like about food chains and the order of things, but the fact remains that we can all live quite happily and (even more) healthily without dead flesh in our guts.
Do you know how they killed the pigs that made your ham sandwich? They stunned them with an electric stunner, and hung them upside down by their legs. Then they slit their throats so they bled to death. Now, pigs are very intelligent creatures, at least as intelligent, if not more intelligent, as your pet dog. Would you do that to Lassie? Personally, I wouldn't do that to a chicken.
Which leads me to my next reason. How many times have you heard people say, in the face of squeamishness, that if you eat something then you should be able to kill it? It works both ways: if you wouldn't kill it, don't eat it. Stick most people in front of a cow and tell them to slaughter it, get blood on their hands, and they'd be horrified at the thought - but meat comes in such sanitised supermarket packages these days that it's easy to forget it ever had a face.
To me, the thought of strangling a chicken, taking it's neck in my hands and squeezing the life out of it, watching it die helplessly, is no less awful than the thought of strangling a cat, or a monkey. I just couldn't do it. So, yes, if you would take the knife in your hand and slit its throat yourself, then by all means eat that dead pig. But if you wouldn't, then you shouldn't. Come help me dig up some potatoes? No problem. Going scrumping? Sounds like fun. Fancy coming down the abbatoir and slaughtering a few cows? No? Well then.
The final nail in the meat eating coffin came a few weeks ago, in a bookshop. Aren't books great? I picked up In defence of animals: the second wave by Peter Singer, and started reading. I didn't get very far, but the bit I did read was brilliant. The basis gist of it was that the drawing of a line, a don't eat it because it's morally wrong line, at the level of species is quite arbitrary. Why not at genus, or even higher? Other species have the same levels of cognition, sentience and ability to feel pain as small children, but because of this arbitrary line most people would eat one and not the other. In the other direction, why don't we draw the line at whatever subgroups of human we might belong to? Perhaps, as a woman, I ought to start eating men. They may think, feel, cry and hurt like me, but they don't belong to the same exclusive biological group as me. Therefore it's ok to kill them for food, isn't it?
So, no more meat for me. Ish. Sorry for preaching, because I really have no right to. My shoes are made of leather and I eat fish. It's a gradual journey, as I said, and we all know I'm a hypocrite.