Leave vegetarians alone
"Get over the fact I don't eat meat"
Jessica graduated from Bolton University. She loves restaurants, takeaways, coffee shops, chewing gum and playing the same CDs over and over again
There wasn’t one specific reason for becoming vegetarian. I just slowly came to realise that I didn’t want to be part of the meat industry any longer. I loved meat, and the first few months were a struggle, but after five years of vegetarianism not eating it is no longer an issue for me – but it’s still an issue for everyone else.
The most common response to discovering I’m vegetarian is the classic: “I love meat, I could never give it up” line. This is closely followed by an enthusiastic listing of all the meat they’ve consumed today and all the meat they’re planning on consuming in the near future. I’m never quite sure why people feel they need to tell me this. I didn’t enquire about their dinner plans and I’m not about to kidnap them, tie them up and force feed them salad leaves for seven days in an effort to convert them to the cause. So they don’t need to convince me that vegetarianism isn’t for them.
Too many people believe not eating meat is boring, which is far from the truth. I’m the most adventurous eater I know. Mention a meal out at a Japanese or Mexican restaurant and I’m there. People don’t seem to realise that you actually have to be more adventurous as a vegetarian, because there’s no easy meat and potatoes option to fall back on. Even restaurants don’t seem to realise the wealth of exciting and exotic meals available to vegetarians. There’s more to the veggie diet than vegetable tarts, cheese and tomato flans, and pasta in tomato sauce – despite what your average pub menu would have you believe.
I’ve also had some downright bizarre enquires about my dietary habits. “Are you still allowed to eat Sunday lunch?” someone asked me recently. Vegetarianism isn’t like diabetes. I am allowed to eat meat, I just choose not to. And of course I still have Sunday lunch, just with one of the countless meat substitutes available from almost every single supermarket.
The worst thing you can ever do to a vegetarian is encourage them to eat meat. “Go on, have a bit, it won’t hurt you,” a few well-meaning family members have said. Do people honestly believe that vegetarians are frightened of meat? Or that they view it as some sort of illicit treat? Am I supposed to look guilty and say: “Ooh, I really shouldn’t, but go on.” It’s not like I’m depriving myself.
What people don’t seem to understand is that vegetarianism feels completely normal for some people. An aunt coming up to me with a plate of ham sandwiches at a family party is like someone encouraging your average meat-eater to chow down on a brick. It just isn’t appetizing.
I’ve never really understood why my own personal choice is such a big deal for other people. It feels completely normal for me to be vegetarian and it feels completely normal for some of my loved ones to eat meat. What doesn’t feel normal is when other people feel they have the right to comment on my choice.
Updated on 29-Sep-2015
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