Cutting Out The Meat

On the 1st January I gave up eating meat for the month. This wasn’t the first time I have done this. I did the same last January, and for the last two years I have flirted with vegetarianism — often going long periods without eating meat, only to fall back into it when eating out, or having barbeques or Christmas dinner, and then resolving once more to stop eating meat. I have been, for all intents and purposes, an aspiring vegetarian.

Over the past month I have come to a few realisations:

  • Firstly, that not eating meat isn’t as hard as I have often convinced myself it is. Yes, there are times when it’s mildly inconvenient — like when you go into a shop to buy a sandwich for lunch to find your options are egg or cheese and pickle. But on the whole it hasn’t been difficult. When I did this last January I felt much more frustration, but over the past year my way of thinking has changed. I’ve started to embrace ideas of reducing my impact on the planet through all aspects of my life — not just through the food I choose to eat.
  • Secondly, I crave meat when I’m tired. In the same way you might want a beer at the end of a long day, or chocolate to make you feel better, I really want to eat some chicken. I haven’t really missed eating meat the rest of the time, and I don’t feel any different for not eating it. However, there have been a couple of days during this month when I’ve been exhausted and pissed off, and I just wanted to eat some chicken, damnit. On one of these occasions I had met my boyfriend at a restaurant after work, and I knew I could just cave in and order the meat option, but I stuck with it, and actually had a really awesome vegetarian dinner instead. Giving into cravings isn’t necessary, and I can manage without doing it.
  • Thirdly, I really hate labels. There are many labels related to the diets we choose. Vegetarian. Pescatarian. Demitarian. Climatarian. Vegan. Not forgetting the ‘normal’ meat-eating diet as well. With each of these labels comes an expectation, both from society and from yourself, that you will eat in a certain way. I find the weight of that expectation too heavy. If I say that I’m vegetarian but then start eating meat again, it means I’ve failed. I’m talking about this largely from my own perspective — that I hold myself to a certain standard, and when I break that, I feel guilty. People might ask ‘I thought you were vegetarian?’ and then you have to try and explain why you just happen to be eating meat on that day. For a lot of people giving up meat is a black and white decision (and seriously, good for them), but for me, there’s an awful lot of grey. Yes, I want to reduce my impact on the environment, yes, I don’t like the cruelty that animals suffer for the sake of becoming our food. But by placing a label on myself I feel as though I’m adding a pressure to the choices I make about what I consume, and that doesn’t feel right or good.

So from now on, I am going to endeavour to continue the way I have for the past 29 days, just without a label. I know I can not eat meat, and aim to continue that way, to make the choices I feel are right. But no more struggling with the constraints of a label I’m not sure I can ever fully live up to.