Thursday, August 25, 2011

Embracing Larry (the cucumber ie vegetable)

If you want to continue eating meat do not look at the PETA website. But since I did, and opened Pandora's box, I've been considering if vegetarianism is something I can pursue. Do I think it is wrong to eat animals? No. Neither from an ethical nor from a religious (and definitely not cultural) point of view. I don't think it is wrong to enjoy a bacon butty or cured ham or turkey pie even if it is proven that my Dijon mustard hot dog has a higher Intellectual Quotient than my pet dog (which isn't be hard to believe). I don't think if it were a sin to kill animals, that God would've said to Noah or the Israelites for that matter, "You may eat... etc." I mean God said to burn the fatty parts of the animals as a burnt offering to Him and boy did He choose the best parts. The most fragrant. I mean really, only God can enjoy fat at every meal and not suffer from high cholesterol and gout.

So if eating meat nor acquiring it by killing the animal per se is not hampering my appetite, what is? My conscience is troubled at the way in which these animals, my food, is raised, is cared for, looked after and protected. I am concerned about their circumstance and welfare prior to becoming a lovely mess of goodness on my plate. Ironically (hypocritcally?) though, short of being skewered with roasted pumpkin and baby onions and chargrilled with butter and lemongrass.

I see pictures of hens in battery cages and see the effects of poultry being injected with hormone boosters to speed growth and production. I see fish squirming on top of each other in stagnant pools. I see the "hands" of crabs being tied and whilst still tied, plunged into boiling hot salted water just so that I can enjoy my butter-oat crab. Somehow, that image doesn't sit right with me. As much as the succulent juicy pieces of good-for-me protein lure with their scent and taste, there is a small part of me that wonders if the animal had been taken care of before it died.

At first I thought of joining the ethical omnivorism clan whereby I would only eat meat products that I knew came from reliable sources; whether wild, well-pastured or free range. Products of deep sea fishing, deer, pigeon, wild rabbits or boars would therefore not pose an issue. Nor would there be an issue (to me) if the birds were allowed to roam, roost naturally and dust bathe. To some vegans, this is hypocrisy as they feel the animal should not be harmed, at all, at any cost. So the fact that I'm saying it's ok to kill the animal is to them a travestry of 'ethics." Then again, ethics is subjective, so what is my ethical preference whilst not yours cannot be deemed wrong unless you have an objective plumbline by which to run it by. In addition, some vegetarians then revert to meat when they fall pregnant for example because they feel "it was right for my body at that point in time to eat meat." Surely that makes them equally hypocritical and more so, it highlights the fact that when push comes to shove, we will put ourselves first at any cost, at all cost.

I'm trying to imagine my life without hoisin duck and three-layered pork and fish and chips... butter prawn, deep fried salted egg squid... kolo mee... and boy, it's hard. Gut wrenchingly so. Literally. My hungry stomach is making noises. Just thinking about kampua mee and not enjoying ngo hiang or bak kut teh or kueh chap anymore is enough to send me into a sugar deprived spiral. Goodbye pepperoni...

But... you might say... if you're still willing to eat meat, it won't mean that you can't have any of this anymore right? That is right... but do you know any ethical farmers around who will kill their half-tonne cow to sell me a 200g slab?

I haven't quite decided to become vegetarian yet but over the years I have come to realize it doesn't mean eating rabbit food or just salad which I thought was what vegetarians lived on; different salads every day; Caesar, Waldorf, Greek. Instead of talking about beef wellington and plum sauce duck for example, I could start talking about stuffed pepper bells with cous cous, spinach and sun dried tomatoes. I could talk about leek and haloumi with brown rice. Or pitta bread stuffed with quorn, spice and greek yoghurt. I can still enjoy pesto. Instead of duck and cherry sausages or Cumberlands, I could have black bean sausages with mashed chick peas. I can still have terung Dayak and terung pipit and nasi kerabu (without the meat). I can still enjoy ulam, buttered sweetcorn and bamboo shoots. I can definitely still have waffles, tau sar pau and egg tarts. French beans or mallow with egg? No problem. I could go on about olive pate, cheese and onion quiche, ricotta pizzas and brocolli with cashew and I can still polish off a whole pack of garlic boursin with water crackers. I can still have french fries.

Life may not be so bad as a vegetarian...

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