Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Being vegetarian

Another article worth re-publishing, considering I sometimes get the "So, do you eat fish?" question when I tell people I'm vegetarian.

And don't get me started on people who tell me, with a straight face, that they're vegetarian, but they eat chicken. How does that constitute being vegetarian?

Personally, I have no problems with other people eating meat, I just don't like it when people try to demean my diet choice. Hey, I don't push salad in your face, so don't push meat in mine.

But to my friends, thank you for respecting me.

The last time I checked, chickens and fish still belonged to the animal kingdom, as opposed to the vegetable realm. So why, when you tell them you're a vegetarian, do restaurant staff insist on asking ''But do you eat chicken or fish?'' This is, I can assure you, but one of a seemingly infinite litany of irritations besetting a vego in this wonderful town. On the eating-out side alone, one might add the chronically limited range of options on menus. Sometimes you get ''placated'' with an offer to remove the meat from a carnivorous dish, leaving you with just the salad. Or else there is only salad in the first place. Or nothing.

And another thing! Why are the vegetarian desserts on planes always so goody-goody? Everybody else gets a chocolate mousse or the like, which would be fine for us too; we get palmed off with fruit salad. Just because you've elected not to make your mouth a graveyard for animals, it doesn't necessarily follow that you're a health freak.

Then there are those ubiquitous people who are determined to catch you out as a hypocrite, or to force you to justify yourself. Nobody's taking them to task, but they insist on launching a pre-emptive strike. ''Hitler was a vegetarian'' is one of their familiar and supposedly damning refrains. So what? He had a moustache, too. So is wearing a moustache wrong? Actually it is, but I digress.

Personally, I'm in no position to be self-righteous. I ate meat until 16 years ago, and anyway it's all relative, and we all compromise and draw a line somewhere. Vegans are my moral superiors, and arguably those Buddhist types who wait for the fruit to drop from the tree have the edge on them.

But if anyone wants to kill animals, can they please at least stop being so damn cute about it? Sentimental ads with kindly grandfathers taking angelic little boys fishing may look pretty, but they can't change the reality of a hook through the gills and a slow suffocating death. And the same, of course, goes for hunting. Not to mention mawkish articles about, say, pork farmers, with photos of them beaming as they cuddle their ''beloved'' piglets.

Almost as stupid and delusive are the selective qualms many people do have about killing. Do they seriously imagine that fish, cows, sheep, pigs, lobsters or chooks feel less pain than, say, whales or baby seals? Or is their pain somehow just less important? Death is death.

But hey, do what you want. It's a free country (unfortunately). I just wish that those who choose to eat meat would consider the small and benighted - but growing - minority who choose differently.

by Mark Demetrius

Monday, 1 February 2010

Entering the giant's garden...revisited

Wrote this article a while ago, but only recently got it published in...Australian Traveller!

Note: The photos were actually by D, not me.
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