As far as I can remember, I’ve first heard about vegetarians on a Russian Literature class, where we have been told Leo Tolstoy was a vegetarian. Tolstoy being totally uncool among the pupils, the vegetarian idea seemed to be also uncool to us.
But it is interesting that this movement is quite old, and is still (or nevertheless) trendy, at least in some circles in the West. In other parts of the world it is even tradition or religion.
So, I was thinking about the vegetarian idea lately.
“In essence, we don’t want to cause harm and suffering to other living beings.”
“Yes. But why should I care about cows and chickens, while so many people starve to death, get raped or murdered, die from AIDS and cancer?”
“Well, actually you should also care about all those other cases. But, from where you are, it is hard to directly influence totalitarian regimes and failed states, or fight diseases. Not eating meat is so much easier.”
“Yes. But not eating meat does not necesserally translates into less suffering of animals. A typical restaurant would probably buy meat beforehand and throw it away if is not getting sold to the customers before its expiration date. Because customer flow fluctuates hugely from day to day, throwing away unused meat should be daily routine, so would the cook ever observe the effect of vegetarians and reduce the amount of meat ordered?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps he would, after reaching some threshold.”
“But yet again, suppose restaurants would order less meat. Will it translate into less animal suffering? Or will the animals still be grown and then burned to obtain cheap electricity? They already grow crops in Europe specifically for electricity production.”
“Perhaps yes, perhaps no, but at least you personally won’t be responsible for that.”
“But what about other effects caused to the world? Humanity is a huge, complicated and not well understood dynamic system. Changing one aspect of this system, let alone the aspect that remained unchanged for hundreds of thousands of years, how can you be sure the effect will only be positive?”
“Hold on. Vegetarian movement exists also since ages, and expecting everybody would at once convert till next Friday is unrealistic. Currently, it is more a “personal decision of not participation”, and a faint try to improve world, one veggie at a time”.
“Well, speaking about personal decisions, I do feel empathy with cows and other mammals, much less of that with the birds, and feel almost nothing to fish, insects or other animals, not to mention plants. Don’t you think being a vegetarian means placing some quite arbitrary borders based solely on the fact I’m also a mammal?”
“You can be a vegan.”
“Hah, being vegan is so much harder than just not eating meat! Besides, vegans are still placing an arbitrary border based on the fact they are animals.”
“Don’t be so black and white. Solving the issue for mammals only is still better than not solving it at all.”
“Yes. But what about effects to my own health? The vegetarian-only diat is controversial, and if I ever crave for meat again and get the binge eating syndrome…”
“How about reducing the average amount of meat dishes you eat, but only in cases where it is comfortably possible, and during just one week?”
“Well, that will hardly make me feel liberated from the burden of being responsible for animal suffering, but at least it will give me some insight of a typical vegetarian life.”
And this is what I did during my week in London.
So far, the insights were not very groundbreaking:
* Generally, I could easily take a vegetarian dish at least once a day. Finding a vegetarian-friendly outfit (i.e. serving meat and vegetarian dishes) was not a problem at all; most of them in London are. I’ve also saw a couple of vegetarian-only restaurants without any special efforts from my side, but searching for them at specific times when I was fancy to eat would be too complicated. Looking for vegan-only restaurants would be totally complicated, even in London. It might be feasible, only if you live there, have found all the possibilities and plan your commute correspondingly.
* I once ordered something called “mozarella tomato sandwich” only to find unexpected ham inside. On some other occasion, I’ve ordered a “vegetable dish”; I have no idea what part of it was not vegetarian, if any. That means, if you want to be a consequent vegetarian, you have to communicate with the waiter much more than usual. This may or may not be an extra effort depending on your personality.
* In the Korean restaurant there was no vegetarian BBQ possibility, so I’ve ordered chicken, because my interest of trying the “well-known Korean BBQ” was greater than the empathy with chickens. Similarly, I’ve ordered a Fish Kofta (just because its funny name) and on another day the “English breakfast” because I was fancy to try it. At least I’ve ordered the vegetarian option, which means without meat, but with eggs.
* Eating so much lentils and beans was a challenge for my stomach.
* Madras or Vindaloo potatoes were a bit too simple for my desire to enjoy eating, and hummus I never especially liked, but vegetarian samosas with puff pastry as well as some Bangladesh dish name of which I forgot and some allegedly Sichuan food were delicious.