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The Confessions of a Vegetarian

The trials and tribulations of turning veggie

Written by Patrick Sholl

‘So why are you vegetarian?’ I seem to have been asked this question a lot in the last two months since I stopped eating meat. It makes for quite entertaining pub chat as everyone is vehement in the expression of their beliefs. The aspect I find fascinating is the high levels of animosity that are present in these discussions. It appears to me that the average meat eater is a lot more militant than the average vegetarian. I’m not entirely sure why it is though I have a couple of guesses. It might be that it genuinely seems ridiculous to them, order they’ve never thought about it much or the reasons I give just don’t register on their world view. The view I’m more inclined towards is that my decision to become a vegetarian feels threatening. By not eating meat it is as if I’m making a moral judgment on those that do.

All illustrations by Kaye Blegvad

I would like to begin by saying I’m not a militant vegetarian. I might sound like one if people ask my reasons, sildenafil but I don’t try and impose it on people, dosage but it’s nice to be able to justify your reasons, whether to others or just to yourself.

First I’ll rule out the reasons that weren’t factors for me: the possible financial benefit had little influence on my decision, and it has nothing to do with not liking the taste of meat, as, unfortunately I really, really do (to the point that at first I had recurring dreams where I was guiltily biting into a chicken drumstick or lamb chop). Instead my motivations to stop eating meat rest on more ethical (to use that wonderfully vague word) foundations.


One of the main reasons that motivated me to become vegetarian is the environmental impact of the meat and livestock industry. The statistics of the livestock industry, they are quite staggering. A UN report released in 2006 entitled ‘Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options’ stated that ‘the livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global’.
The livestock sector is responsible for 18% of green house gases, which is greater than the amount caused from transport. It is also accounts for 8% of global human water use and is suspected to be the largest source of water pollution. It is estimated to take 100,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of beef. As it stands livestock production (including feedcrop production) accounts for 30% of the land surface of the planet, and 70% of all agricultural land. The expansion of livestock production is accountable for a large amount of deforrestation. It is projected that global production of meat will continue to rise rapidly, with estimates that it will double by 2050. It seems clear that the livestock industry as it stands is both highly damaging to the environment and not sustainable.
These are just basic figures, to see far more and a wider range of the impacts I recommend doing additional reading, including looking at the report. But nonetheless these seem to provide a strong incentive, provided one sees sustainability and climate change as problems, to at the very least reduce ones meat consuption. Knowing this led me to have a nagging, guilt-ridden feeling every time I ate meat.


I suppose that nagging feeling is perhaps the real reason I’ve become a vegetarian. As I’ve become older, increasingly things are less black and white and morality and ethics becomes a blur. I’ve retained that ‘catholic guilt’ from my upbringing that means I tend to feel guilty about ridiculous things, often beyond my control. There are problems all around us from climate change to discrimination, from sweat shops to war. It can be all too easy to give up and admit defeat. By no means am I an exception to this. I still get flights to go on holiday despite knowing the environmental impact. I don’t check that every item of clothing I wear has been ethically sourced. These things nag at me, and I repeatedly fail to do anything about it. Similarly the thought of not eating meat dragged at me, wearing me down, sucking the fun out of eating meat, even if on another level I enjoyed the taste. It feels like by giving up meat I’ve taken an active decision, and one that I can manage. It feels empowering and though it might not last forever, and although I still have a leather wallet and belt, it gives me something to feel good about even if it’s only a small thing. It’s a beginning.


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3 Responses to “The Confessions of a Vegetarian”

  1. Well done, and you’re right, not eating meat is the very beginning.(Dairy is the big one to crack, but it needs careful dietary attention to dietary detail.) I’m where you probably want to be long-term, but it’s taken years of hard work – buying absolutely nothing made in China, Vietnam, Bangladesh etc., not a scrap of leather, no PVC shoes, no lanolin, no UPVC double glazing nor any other animal product in the house or about mine or my partner’s person. All our paints and DIY stuff and furniture is sourced from reclaim yards and eco-suppliers, no more gas boilers etc. etc….I could go on! The point is, you have to start somewhere and eventually, once you find your sources, everything can be done without animals and without being at any another creature’s expense, including humans. Don’t give up. The pub chats (so long as it’s a vegan organic beer or wine! – yep they do exist!) can only strengthen your resolve and as long as you’re the one staying calm and reasonable, you’ll always have the quiet strength to discuss it with those who simply cannot fathom what is sometimes seen as an intimidating commitment, and move on a bit further each time, till you’re where you want to be. x

  2. Ponter says:

    As someone who has hardly eaten any meat in over two decades, I applaud your efforts. However, there are some common misconceptions about raising meat on which I’d like to comment.

    There’s no question that industrial agriculture of ANYTHING, including produce, is a major environmental problem. In addition, the casual cruelty associated with industrial animal foods is beyond sadistic. So all people of any decency should be in agreement that such things must go.

    However, some 70% of agricultural land is basically unfit for growing crops, and is only useful (if one feels it must be used at all) for pasture. Animals raised in sustainable numbers (relative to the acreage) on grasslands, allowed to live more or less “naturally,” then humanely slaughtered, contribute no more to greenhouse gases and other environmental problems than raising veggies. Indeed, properly run small mixed farms are some of the most productive and healthy farm operations around. This is not a fantasy, they really exist, although the agribusiness people are doing their damnedest to drive them out of business.

    I still eat meat and dairy on occasion owing to concerns about the long-term health problems associated with a vegan diet — and there are problems, although many veganistas are in complete ideologically-driven denial about this. We are omnivores, and our bodies are tuned to that. Still, we should eat just a little meat and a lot of vegetable matter. The world would be just fine if we all followed that advice.

    Notwithstanding my advice, best to you in your experiment.

  3. Hannah says:

    Congratulations! I think it’s such a good, positive way to make an impact, however small, on the planet. I wish more people would do it.

    I was in a very similar position to you when I gave up meat almost 6 years ago (when I was 16). Back then I loved the taste of meat, but I just couldn’t overlook the ethical issues (mainly the treatment of animals) any longer. For about the first two years I’d get cravings. Every once in a while I’d give in (at Christmas, or when I was feeling ill), but eating meat was less and less pleasurable each time. Now I really don’t crave it, or miss it at all.

    I had originally thought it would be a temporary thing … something I’d try out for a year or two but probably eventually abandon. I thought that eventually my cravings would overpower my ethical stance. But in the last year I’ve become more aware of the statistics with regards to climate change and I’m now pretty certain I will never, ever go back to eating meat.

    It can be hard work if you’re a meat-lover at heart, but with a wee bit of will power it’s totally do-able, and gets much easier with time!

    Keep at it! x

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