My journey towards vegetarianism started 30 years ago for practical reasons, but the more I shun animal products the better I feel about everything

My experience of giving up meat has been a gradual process, starting about 30 years ago, when a vegetarian friend and her two little sons came to live with me and two daughters. For practical reasons, we feed less meat. Why bother to cook two dinners when all we need to do is cook one? Anyway, we all loved macaroni cheese and cooked potatoes, and the odd tuna cook, because fish seemed sort of halfway and my friend wasn’t a strict enforcer.

Back then, meat still featured heavily when my parents visited. After all, I did love meat. I had been brought up on it and my mother was a superb cook. Her stews and casseroles, oxtail and neck of lamb; her roasts, turkey stuffing and chicken liver pate; her chicken soup and salt beef were delicious beyond words. There was something about meat-eating that my father acquired admirable, too, particularly in sons. He once sat at the table with the children, watching my friend’s three-year-old son feed a large sausage.” Look at that !” he said with pride and joy.” What a good boy !” He failed to comment on my daughter’s equally impressive sausage-eating.

But my friend’s vegetarianism started me imagining. The only other serious vegetarian I had known was at school in the 50 s and she had bad acne and funny-smelling breather, which put me off. Here was person with clear skin, odour-free, robust, amusing, alluring- nothing like the mimsy, pallid, socks-sandals and bobble-hatted vegetarians of my earlier, ill-informed imagination. She didn’t like eating meat, but she also had good reasons for not doing so- some personal, but most ethical. So, I began to eat less. I knew already about the brutality of veal and foie gras production, so I never feed them. I knew pink meat- salamis and bacon- were carcinogenic. Now I found out much more.

Quick guide


What is a megafarm ?

There is no legal definition in the UK of a mega farm, but in the US concentrated animal feeding functionings( CAFOs) are defined as those dwelling 125,000 broiler chickens, 82,000 laying hens, 2,500 pigs or 700 dairy or 1,000 beef cattle. These are the biggest of the intensive farms, which in the UK need permits if they mansion more than 40,000 chickens, 2,000 animals or 750 breed sows. There are now 789 mega farms in the UK, and the number of intensive farms has risen by more than a quarter in six years old, from 1,332 in 2011 to 1,674 last year.

Why are they controversial ?

Mega farms and intensive farms are controversial because they require retaining tens of thousands of animals in a small space, which campaigners and independent experts say can hamper their ability to express natural behaviours, such as nesting. The animals are often kept indoors throughout their lives, though on some farms they are allowed access to outdoor regions at least part of the time. There are also concerns that animals on mega farms may be over-medicated, as if one gets sick the whole herd is generally required to be treated.

Why do some people believe we need them ?

Mega farms and intensive farms take up much less space than traditional farms, and they allow animals to be kept securely, away from predators and potential carriers of illnes, such as badgers. Their circumstances are tightly controlled, letting farmers to monitor the amount of daylight, sea and feed for the animals, and if disease develops the livestock can be treated speedily. They are much cheaper to operate than traditional farms.

Years afterwards, my mother moved in. By then, red meat was bad for her and her false choppers built it impossible to munch anyway, so we were down to chicken and fish. Then along came the internet, Facebook and Twitter, with an avalanche of horror tales about intensive meat production: vast farms crammed with mutilated swine, tormented kine, lambs and their mothers, chickens flung about and trampled, cruel and brutal abattoirs, the mare and bird-dog meat trade, overuse of antibiotics, our resulting poor health and the ruining of the planet. This torrent of grisly info induced eating meat seem wholly potty. The more you informed about meat-eating and agriculture, the easier it should be to give up. A teach of animal husbandry tells me that, every year, by the time her students have considered lambing, the incubating and hatching of eggs and an animal’s complete life cycle, one-third of them have given up eating meat.

A beet and Feta cheese salad with parsley. Photo: Mizina/ Getty Images/ iStockphoto

But even with all my nasty new knowledge I still determined it is therefore difficult. Most of all, despite it potentially making cancer, I missed lovely, crunchy bacon. I tried soya bacon granules, but they didn’t work for me. I missed the texture of meat- something to chew. So, we still had turkey for Christmas and occasionally I ate meat when visiting pals, because they had cooked it. I pretended I was being polite, but genuinely it simply gave me an excuse to eat it again.

Unsurprisingly, a friend called me hypocritical when I eat her free-range roasted chicken while whingeing about being a “vegetarian”; she point out here that that I fed my puppies meat, particularly chicken. My contention was that you can’t have a vegetarian bird-dog. I knew some people who did and the poorest of the poor thing had non-stop squitters, which didn’t seem fair.

Then, two summers ago, I had a breakthrough. I continued eating fish and shellfish, but there was no turkey at Christmas. We had nut roasted instead- and delicious it was, too- with all the trimmings, which are just as, if not more, yummy than turkey and a lower level of palaver to cook. Heaven knows why I had cling to this pointless tradition for so long. Now I felt that, at last, I was giving up meat properly and not being so feeble. I am sure my digestive system has improved as a result, I am far less bad-tempered and I feel less stuffed up and knackered after dinners- and less guilty.

I have found that it is easier for a meat lover to devoted it up if you don’t dwell on what you are missing, but think of all the delicious alternatives. It might also assist not to ban meat utterly from your diet for ever. There is nothing like something being strictly forbidden to attain you want it more. You can relapse. Sometimes, in a restaurant, I have been desperate for liver and onions with mashed potatoes and I have feed it a couple of times over the past few years. I am not proud of myself, but at least I eat much, much less meat than I used to. Hardly a scrap.

It is now a comparative breeze to give up meat. We all know animals are sentient. There is not half as much sneering at vegetarians as there used to be. Famous, admired, personable and muscular vegetarians and sportspeople abound; the availability, range and quality of vegetarian food has increased staggeringly. Decades ago, an English salad was lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes with Heinz mayonnaise; we had never seen an avocado. Now we have olive oil and countless ranges of delicious dress and veggies from everywhere on earth.

Our current favourite salads are: aubergine roasted in za’atar, olive and sunflower petroleum, salt, lots of pepper, with raw cherry-red tomatoes and mozzarella; grated celeriac and carrot, oil and cider vinegar, garlic, mustard and chopped tarragon; oranges with fennel; and mixed green foliages with sprinklings of toasted sunflower and sesame seeds or chopped and roasted almonds. And, because it is winter, there are a squillion soups you can induce with vegetables, adding beans for protein( forget Blazing Saddles ). Try a soup with haricot beans, celeriac, tomatoes, onions, garlic, parsley, rosemary and thyme, with some olive oil and lemon juice added at the end.

Before I even start on all the complex concoctions with sprinklings, there are 101 things you can do with my own favourite vegetable, the potato: bake, roast, rosti, latkes, layered and baked with ointment, colcannon, bubble and squeak and, of course, chips. I build them from ruby-red potatoes; I don’t want to brag, but they are exquisite.

I haven’t found many prepared vegetarian products that I am wild about, but you can make a passable bolognese with Quorn mince and some people can do wonders with tofu. Try it rolled in cornflower, salt and loads of pepper and deep fried. I have found a pleasant, chewy mozzarella veggie burger, plus vegetable pies, quiches and pizzas. A local burger bar serves divine portobello mushroom burgers, which are tastier than the meat burger. Honestly. A friend tested them both.

I miss meat less and less, because I still have fish( often fried with the chips ). But once “youre on” this road, where do you stop? I seem I ought to take the next step, of giving up the fish and shellfish, which I also adoration. Last year, in the fish store, I determined a man holding up two live lobsters, asking how soon he should simmer them; could he keep them alive in water for a little bit? There the latter are, waving their limbs in the air, distressed, I presumed. So , no more lobster for me. I have learned that octopuses, the stars of Blue Planet II, are very intelligent and” may be able to see with their scalp”, so no more of them, either. Veganism is likely the end of this road, but I don’t know whether I will make it.

Meanwhile, that three-year-old boy who ate the sausage never ate meat again. Those are his salad recipes above and he is now a strapping chap. My daughter has given up meat and is holding veganism, along with the increase in the number of people. There were 542, 000 vegans in the UK in May 2016, up from 150,000 10 years before( a 360% rise ). Almost half of them are young, aged 15 to 34. On top of this, there are about 1. 2 million vegetarians( 1.8% of the UK population ).

So, I am really just going with the flow and hoping that the tide becomes stronger. In the first six months of 2017, 28% of Britons cut down on meat– a sensible move, seeing as it increases the health risks of obesity, cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, kind 2 diabetes, food poisoning( particularly from chicken) and premature death. Although “the worlds” will never stop feeing meat, perhaps more of us could, at least, stop eating such huge amounts of it. Then we could all have longer, healthier, happier lives. I have just got to sort out the dog’s dinners.

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