Why eating meat makes me feel like a hypocrite

As an animal lover and environmentalist, I really should know better

Vegetables are shown at VeggieWorld fair in Lisbon, Portugal April 29, 2018.  REUTERS/Rafael Marchante
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I may not think much of his music, but it turns out that DJ Hardwell is a man after my own heart. In an interview with The National a few months ago, he said: "If I had to choose a favourite meal, I'd definitely go for steak. Lately I've been thinking about becoming a vegan, but I love steak so much."

That’s precisely how I feel. The problem is, every steak I now eat is served with a super-sized side of guilt. In case you hadn’t noticed, veganism is the new black. All the cool kids are doing it. Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Ellen DeGeneres, Liam Hemsworth, Sia, Stevie Wonder, Peter Dinklage, to name but a few.

In the old days, vegans were part of a little club, united in their superciliousness and prone to hugging trees. Even if you secretly knew they had a point, they could be easily avoided. But oh, how those meat-free tables have turned.

Soon after he wrote a story on the rise of veganism for this newspaper, my colleague Kevin gave up meat altogether. There were things he saw during his research that could not be unseen, apparently, although he has been gentlemanly enough not to share them with the rest of us.

My colleague Sarah, meanwhile, a vegetarian for many years, has finally given up that last dash of milk in her morning coffee and declared herself animal product-free. A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to a barbecue by some friends in our neighbourhood. "Sorry, we don't eat meat. But please feel free to bring your own," the WhatsApp message read. At another dinner party, the lovely lady sitting next to me seemed entirely unbothered that I was tucking into a chunk of cow, even though we were having a long conversation about why she has totally eschewed animal flesh.

And this week, I received a press release about the launch of “vegan community days” – the first of which will take place on Saturday at the Rove hotel in Healthcare City and will include yoga by the hotel pool, all-vegan food, talks, demonstrations, films about veganism. The ranks are closing in.

There’s an old joke: “How do you know if someone is a vegan. Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.” But I’m not sure it rings true any more. That’s the thing about this new breed of vegan. There is no condescension. There is, seemingly, no struggle. The vegans of 2018 don’t feel the need to shove their views down your throat. They are entirely secure in their choice. And they are not jealous of that rib-eye you may be tucking into.

It doesn't feel like a short-term fad, either. And that's because the modern-day vegan knows they are on the right side of this fight. Just like DJ Hardwell knows, and just like I know. It is becoming increasingly difficult for any animal-loving, health-conscious adult to justify the consumption of animal products. A slew of documentaries highlighting the horrors of the food industry have given birth to the term "Netflix vegan", individuals who, like Kevin, have watched things like Earthlings, Cowspiracy, What the Health and Food Inc – and just can't unsee what they have seen.

I am finding it difficult to fight the tide. I'm an animal lover and environmentalist at heart – but to proclaim to be either of these things while eating animal products is becoming little more than hypocrisy. The upshot is that being a carnivore in 2018 is starting to feel a lot like being a smoker used to. I was late getting off the cigarette bandwagon and it wasn't fun being the last woman standing.

The case for veganism is overwhelmingly strong. There's the sheer cruelty that we are inflicting on animals on a global, industrial scale. It is estimated that 70 billion animals are killed each year for food, as well as trillions of fish. There's the health element – it is becoming apparent that animal products are damaging our health. The American Dietetic Association notes that a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of many chronic degenerative diseases and conditions, including heart disease, cancer, obesity, hypertension and diabetes. And then there's the environmental argument. Rearing meat takes an incredible toll on our planet. I just wish I didn't love steak so much.


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