'We need to stop caring so much about what other people eat'
PUBLISHED: 18:30 17 January 2020
Tired of being judged for eating a soy burger by your carnivorous friends? Or maybe you're just happy enjoying #MeatFreeMonday. Don't let stigma from others change your lunch order.
A friend of mine once described a vegan dish as being 'too meaty' - she said it resembled real beef too closely in taste, texture and appearance and it made her feel nauseous. Bizarre, because they were the reasons why I wanted more.
"If you don't want to eat meat, why would you choose to eat a 'bleeding' fake steak?", I've been asked. Because I have absolutely no issue in tricking my taste buds into thinking I'm eating chicken, beef, pork or duck, when it's actually just a tarted-up piece of tempeh. It's a win-win for all parties: the animals, the environment and my belly.
I should probably mention that I'm a flexitarian - however much I hate the phrase. It means I'm a fence sitter, and in a world where it seems like there are two teams - 'MEAT' and 'VEGAN' - it can be a dangerous place to be.
But I'm here to defend my fellow flexies. Every meat-free meal will earn you extra 'heaven points', and every time you hail seitan you'll be saving a life - so good going. But to understand why I'm so reluctant to pick a side, you need to meet the players.
The extreme vegans: A passionate, fiery and outspoken bunch. They feed off vegetarians and flexies by tearing their beliefs to shreds. They will not hold back when informing you of your meat-eating sins. It must be said however, that they do advocate good and their ultimate goal is for a world free of animal cruelty.
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The vegan: An air of superiority will follow them to family gatherings, dinner parties with friends and will radiate off them as they order their soy-milk latte. It's okay though - not all are preachy and most will extend their hand to others hoping to learn their zen-like ways.
The flexitarian: Here, we're in purgatory. Most of us will have no issue when chomping down on a tofu taco, but we may find it hard to say goodbye to nana's beef hotpot. Everyone is welcome - whether they're looking for a short-term stay or are seeking permanent residence.
The vegetarian: They're just happy to finally be accepted. Similar to flexies, they don't want beef - they just want to eat and be left alone. Some veggies will be in a transitional period, but long-term players are vulnerable to be attacked for their continued support of the dairy industry.
The meat eater: Mostly aloof. Sometimes their attention will be piqued by a new plant-based chocolate - but never a vegan cheese. They may cast their eyes over the vegan menu, but more often than not, they'll opt for a bog-standard carbonara. In the unlikely event that a veggie lasagne is chosen, a faint halo will appear and they will remain morally untouchable for a solid 24 hours.
The extreme meat eater: Arguably the most dangerous of them all. They will show no remorse for any other living creature and believe that their ability to eat 126 chicken nugget and seven double cheeseburgers in one sitting to be medal worthy.
The pescatarian (thought I'd forgotten these guys, didn't you?): The 'fish are friends, not food' approach welcomes some to take the moral high ground - and rightly so. Others are just happy to be doing their bit.
Whichever team you want to bat for, make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. Rise above your insensitive co-worker who lets meat drip from their sandwich every day or stop yourself from mocking the plant-based milk that sits in the fridge. Everyone has different motives for eating, reducing or avoiding meat - it's important to respect that.
Now, as I climb back on my fence, I welcome you to join me - after all, the view is quite nice.