Lately I’ve noticed a disturbing trend, or at least what is to me. It’s a very militant attitude, convinced of one’s own smug superiority whilst writing off the others as decidedly inferior, or worse, not even worthy of classification. I don’t like the whole superiority thing in any context, it’s very different from where there’s a clear wrong/right, legal/illegal. People only feel superior when they are convinced that their beliefs, ethos, principles are not only elevated above all others but often are the only way. No, I don’t like it all.
I don’t eat meat. I class myself as vegetarian although I don’t always use that description. For most people the definition of ‘vegetarian’ as someone who doesn’t eat meat is fairly logical. In fact, that’s always been the definition used, even by noble societies.
Of late, however, not eating meat is not good enough for the many vegetarian voices that you may meet in print and online, even representing such noble societies. Oh no, now a vegetarian must never touch egg or dairy. Uh, come again? Doesn’t that in an albeit simplistic model make you vegan not vegetarian?
All of a sudden, a great majority of vegetarians have seemingly failed and been pushed out into the cold. To be accepted as vegetarian in this modern day, you must be something more than the basic definition of non-meat-eating. Neither may you take gradual steps into the vegetarian swimming pool but plunge in straight at the deep end, preferably after some ethical epiphany. No, gradually becoming vegetarian also makes you a failure and kicks you out of the club.
This strikes me as a rather stupid, arrogant manoeuvre. Sadly when it comes to food definitions, you either eat meat or you don’t. If you don’t then you can be pretty sure that the meat-eating fraternity will abandon you faster than you can say ‘I’ll just eat the vegetables’, not even a kiss goodbye and a hope-to-see-you-soon. So where does it leave the non meat eaters? Apparently not vegetarian anymore. You need to pass some kind of exam to get in that club, it’s no longer a warm, welcoming, cosy corner where whatever your current food persuasions you’d be made welcome and introduced to nutritious, balanced and exotic cuisine. It’s now an élite, members only society with more rules than an entire country.
I don’t think it’s going to help encourage people to make the step, which is what these proselytising vegetarians do want. If you want people to convert then surely you have to meet them somewhere along the way? We can’t all be struck by lighting and find ourselves fully initiated, we all take different paths and make different choices.
When I started turning properly vegetarian (or at least I was a vegetarian before this new attitude got me booted) in my teens, there was a little information around, educational and inclusive. Welcome, try it and see if it’s for you. There were definitions, a little language to help you define yourself if you wished. Lacto and ovo were all acceptable prefixes. Even the pescatarians found themselves under the ‘vegetarian’ label at the time, because they did not eat meat. (This is a red rag to a very irate TVP bull equivalent who are now busy rejecting those who don’t aggressively check cheese and biscuit labels with a magnifying glass).
Well, sorry, to me that still makes sense. A vegetarian is a non-meat-eater. I stand by that still. As more people are reducing the amount of meat in their diet then surely it would also make sense to be a little welcoming to these people? After all they’ve got their toes in the water and maybe with the right swimming lessons, they may go completely veggie, in one form or another. And if they don’t, at least they won’t think vegetarians are all snooty cranks. I’m starting to think that myself.
So yes, I’m a lacto-semi ovo-sometimes pesca-vegetarian. And if you don’t like that, lump it. It’s my life, my choices and I respect yours.