Written by Emma Setterfield-Smith
‘Do you never just miss a bacon bap? Do you never just fancy a steak? What do eat apart from lettuce?’
These are the questions that every vegetarian will encounter, most likely around the dinner table – that’s when you know the interrogation is about to begin! A vegetarian can be defined as:
‘A person who does not eat meat or fish, and sometimes other animal products, especially for moral, religious, or health reasons’
Before becoming vegetarian, I too wondered if I could cater to a diet where you could only eat a subset of the menu or whether I could survive without my pub classic ‘Hunters Chicken’. However once seeing those horrendous videos we all see on social media and listening to numerous debates, I began to do my research and realised that not only does the diet allow you to eat more than a singular lettuce leaf but it might be for me. However, it is perfectly rational to question why people choose to make the change and what has possessed them to do so. So this article isn’t to convert all carnivores in some freak social movement but is to perhaps answer some of those questions and to help you understand your fellow vegetarians a bit better.
The largest and perhaps most controversial topic, which is why I’m choosing to tackle it, is of course the slaughter of animals. Before researching into the nature of what exactly happens behind closed doors, I too had fallen guilty of what seems to be the biggest problem within today’s society ‘Disassociation’. I had never really taken the time to think about exactly where those spicy chicken bites had come from, and the journey they had taken to end up on that shelf. When you start researching, you begin to find stories and facts that become unsettling and this is what changed my view entirely. Due to an increasing population, it is no surprise that everything we consume is mass produced- including our meat. Unfortunately for animals, this means small cramped spaces and a poor treatment on the lead up to the slaughter. It may come as a surprise that over 1 billion animals are killed every year for human consumption. The four main species eaten are cows, pigs, sheep and birds, and each have their own individual method of slaughter. Cows for example, are stunned with a captive bolt pistol, driving a bolt into their skull causing brain damage. However, it is estimated that around 230,000 cattle are stunned inaccurately which leaves them conscious for a second attempt or some may even just be left conscious to feel the knifing. Similarly sheep are stunned with an electrical stun, which involves placing tongues either side of the skull allowing the electrical current to leave them unconscious. ‘Viva!.com’ however estimate that around 4 million sheep may regain consciousness before the slaughter, meaning they are aware and would in fact be skinned whilst still alive. One of the largest problems within the industry however is the slaughter of pigs, who are either killed via electrical stunning or gas chambers. However, this still causes great issues as many slaughter men incorrectly place tongs, leaving the pig conscious and once again awake to be placed into boiling water. The Co2 used to gas pigs also takes around 30 seconds to take effect, which for the animal is spent in confusion and agonising pain. That may seem like a tonne of facts and figures that don’t really mean anything, but when you really start to think about it and what has been happening just whist you’re reading this article – its mad! It is so easy in this day and age to go through life without having to consider the dark side of where our meals come from and I too had no idea due to the fact that we simply aren’t made aware of what exactly goes on behind closed doors. Suddenly, when I began to look into these happening it became hard for me to think about anything else whilst buying/eating meat, it felt like the change for me was inevitable. There are many more reasons why people choose to become vegetarian however animal slaughter is the one I wished to focus on and bring attention to within this article.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom and as well as disturbing aspects (as stated above), there are so many positives that centre around the diet. So to end of a positive note, here are ten interesting facts about becoming vegetarian:
- It increases you’re lifespan! Due to the increased consumption of fruit and veg, the less build up your body has of toxins and chemicals
- It makes your skin healthier! Again the increased intake of fruit and veg means an increased intake of vitamins, minerals and sufficient antioxidants.
- Some tests suggest it can reduce depression! On tests completed, results showed that vegans and vegetarians had lower scores on depression than meat eaters.
- It is more economical! Vegetarian food tends to be cheaper than meat based products
- Some tests have found that vegetarianism can help to reduce the risk of some types of cancer! According to ‘QoQii.com’ it has been found that vegetarians have up to 40% less chance of developing cancer
- Helps you to lose weight! The diet is high in fibre and low in fat
- Helps the environment! Livestock produces more greenhouse gases than vehicles and other aspects, by reducing your demand you help to reduce this issue
- Its ethical from the animal slaughter point of view!
- Its educational! Whilst becoming vegetarian I researched a lot more into the food production process and I have a greater awareness of where my food comes from and I can make more informed decisions
- It gives you the chance to expand your cooking! Whilst many think being vegetarian limits your food choices, I have actually found that I have eaten more exotic dishes and put myself out there to try new things and adapted them into my cooking at university.
To conclude, I have presented a brief overview on a huge, ever growing, ever controversial topic which holds endless conversations to be had within. If you wish to know more, some interesting documentaries include:
– What The Health (Netflix)
– Cowspiracy (Netflix)
– If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian (Youtube)
Even if this hasn’t made you want that McChicken Burger any less, I hope it has at least given you a little further insight and maybe next time you’re around the dinner table you might understand the fellow vegetarian a bit better and let them happily dig in to their singular piece of lettuce without question.