Confession: I love meat. I was never a hardcore carnivore who ate bacon on chicken with a side of steak, but growing up in a Greek family meant regular feasts where more than one animal, usually whole, was slow-roasted on a home-made spit.
I first tried to go vegetarian when I was about 10 years old. The well-known episode of The Simpsons where Lisa forgoes meat after her pinned-down worm in Science class pleads for its life in a lamb-y voice got to me. When I told my parents I wasn’t eating meat anymore, they laughed, served up our dinner of grilled chops and garden salad, and told me to tuck in to the delicious lettuce leaves in front of me. Needless to say, my hunger and yearning tastebuds overcame my decision.
But the idea never left me.
After slowly weaning off meat, I recently began my pescetarian diet. One day, I may be strong enough to cut out seafood too, but with my overly persistent lactose intolerance already barring me from dairy, that would mean a big personal sacrifice. For now, I’m trying to focus on keeping my resolve and not having a bite of my dad’s juicy steak, or drunk-ordering a pack of golden McNuggets on a Friday night. Because while I love meat, I don’t love the meat industry – what it does to the animals, what it does to the environment or what it does to the general population’s concept of where their food comes from.
Since I left pub schnitties and roast pork behind, I’ve received a range of reactions. Support from friends and boyfriend, support with mentions of an escape route from many people close to me, and a side-order of sniggering. Going to a steakhouse for my sister’s birthday involved a crumbed mushroom salad, 3 smoky-grilled steaks and one grilled Evelyn trying to defend her choices.
I hadn’t made a loud proclamation of being a pescetarian. I hadn’t launched them into an ethical debate. I hadn’t made stereotypical snide remarks about murder on a plate that, for some reason, is jokingly-but-not-jokingly expected of me. I simply ordered my salad, followed by shocked questions from my family, which revealed I wasn’t eating meat any more.
This led to sprinkles of “oh, that’s good” in a stew of confusion, belittling remarks, betting on my demise, and an overall miscalculation of why I was doing this. “But you love meat” and “But it’s delicious” and “Don’t expect me to stop eating meat” have been the general attitudes of a lot of people, not only towards me, but others I know who’ve made an ethical decision to stop supporting the meat industry.
I know it’s delicious. I don’t expect you to stop eating meat, even though you seem to share the same concerns over animal rights/ environmental conservation as me. But I also didn’t expect to have to defend myself to people who have never had to defend their choices to me. I’m a softcore ethical eater compared to a dedicated vegan, but we’ve all made a sacrifice based on our ethics and morals. We don’t tell you about our choices unless you ask.
So please stop making ethical eaters feel like they’re doing something stupid or wrong, when in actual fact, we’re trying to remove ourselves from making stupid or wrong choices by supporting harmful, unethical industries.
Words by EVELYN KANDRIS.