…To Be A Dad.

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Daddy used to be a veggie

November 12th, 2010 · 6 Comments · food, health, lucy, oliver, politics

This is going to be a long post, but as it has taken me nearly 3 decades to come to the point where it has to be written, I’m hoping you’ll bear with me.

I stopped eating meat just before Christmas 1982. I recall it clearly, not least through the memory of my Mum’s dismayed face having just bought a bird more than big enough to feed the whole family, including me.

I was prompted into my conversion after seeing The Animals Film, following several weeks of discussions with friends at college and at the pub where I worked about the rights and wrongs of eating meat. In particular I was dismayed by the practices required by intensive farming. The fact that the best looking barmaids were vegetarian was entirely dispelled from my mind at all times and it was by pure chance that I started dating one of them a few months later…. I digress.

It really wasn’t a frivolous endeavour though. My proof? I remained entirely vegetarian for the next decade and a half and haven’t eaten meat to this day. In the mid-90s I found my cholesterol level was a tad high so I started to eat fish, thus allowing easy access to sources of omega-3 and -6. There ended formal vegetarianism for me. Nonetheless I have always remained meat-free and last December marked my 28th Christmas without a portion of turkey.

But should it be my last?

When I went veggie the only places to buy food were health-food stores. Today I can go into any supermarket and expect to find a selection of vegetarian meals and foodstuffs. This reflects a rise in vegetarianism, particularly amongst the young, over the last generation. But there has been a corresponding rise in ethically farmed food. Televised initiatives by people such as Hugh Fearnley Whitingstall and by Jamie Oliver have presented us with a choice, provided we can afford it, about the food we eat.  Organic and RSPCA approved meat-production gives me pause for thought before walking on by in the bacon aisle. So just as it was farming that turned me vegetarian it could be farming that turns me back to meat.

Of course the other thing that gives me pause for thought is my kids. Too much meat, particularly red meat,  is not healthy. But we have raised our kids as omnivores. We want to leave it to them to decide whether they should forgo meat, whilst we still ensure they maintain a balanced diet.

So far they have not spotted that Daddy never eats meat. There have been a few times when my refusal of an offer of some of their meat from their plate might have prompted the telling question and require my explanation, but so far I have escaped this tricky conversation. The penny just doesn’t seem to have dropped with them.

So in which direction should I take my diet?

There are arguments to remain vegetarian. One is that to produce meat a vast amount of grain has to be fed to cattle. This increases demand for grain, pushing up its price and forcing third world farmers onto marginal land. More than 20 years ago I read the (not entirely balanced but nonetheless thought-provoking) book, “Food: Need, Greed and Myopia”, on this very subject and its arguments remain in play today. An the keeping of cattle is actually claimed to be a major contributor to global warming. I know that the suggestion of adopting “meat-free” Mondays was partially as a result of this.

Beyond this there are health reasons and others clearly see an ethical dimension when it comes to killing any sentient being. I could write a whole other blog post on that!

The jury remains out on whether I will ever abandon the Quorn versions of steak and kidney puddings and breakfast bacon  for the genuine articles.  Even if I did, I can see me preferring some veggie food, such as Quorn sausages, over their authentic bretheren (in the same price range at least!). So I must continue to assess the pros and cons and try to reach a conclusion and get my story straight enough for a 5 year old to understand, hopefully before those inevitable questions start to come my way over the dinner table.

What are your eating habits and do you ever think of changing them, wholesale or otherwise?

This post is part of Fatherhood Friday over at Dad-Blogs. (Well, it will be when Joe puts up the page to link to!)


6 Comments so far ↓

  • delishus

    If it helps, shoudl you decide to wimp out of eating Veggie, i'll never let you hear the end of it


  • radioactive tori

    This is really interesting as I have just finished reading Eating Animals. I was mostly vegetarian before I read the book and I can now say I probably won't ever eat meat again. I have 2 kids that are vegetarians and 2 meat eaters. I have never pushed for anything, they came to the conclusions themselves. I am very sensitive (some people would call me oversensitive) and just can't think about animals being hurt and killed and living such horrible lives. The two kids who have chosen to be vegetarians are the two that are most like me personality wise. I don't think that is a coincidence. I think it is a personal choice though and would never even really mention it to anyone unless they asked.

    • Steve

      I hadn't heard of the Eating Animals book but I'll seek out a copy. Sounds like just what I need if it's up to date.

      I was never very comfortable with the idea of animal slaughter. There's something to be said for the argument that if we wouldn't be prepared to kill it ourselves we shouldn't be eating it. Too many people make no connection between food on their plate and animals as living, sensing beings.

      It will be interesting to see how the kids react if I do stay veggie. It's not hard to imagine the possibility of Oliver following my lead. And where Oliver goes, Lucy usually follows! All of which makes my choice potentially all the more important.

  • SeattleDad

    Wow, seriously interesting post Steve. I guess it will come down to why you are doing it. If it was because of the way meat was farmed then there are the options now that were not there before. But if you are opposed to animal slaughter, then there is no getting around that fact.

    I think either way, you probably wouldn't be hurt too badly if you did go back, health wise that is, because you have so many great options that you have at your disposal such as the Quorn versions.

    Let us know how it turns out.

    • Steve

      Thanks James. (And thanks for the re-tweet about this post. What's happened to Dad-Blogs lately?!)

      The odds are that I will remain meat-free for now, which just leaves me with the tricky task of articulating my reasons for being partially veggie to my kids. I'd better try to keep it simple!

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