When I was little I went vegetarian. It must have been a sudden decision because I remember, rather arrogantly, sending back a meal my mother had cooked and announcing my new regime. It could have been during Lent, but I distinctly remember that it was all about not eating live moving things. I had a role model, of course, my big brother Dan was a vegetarian, and still is. Maybe I copied him, but I definitely developed principles: animals were not to be used or abused. In A- Level Ethics I learnt, and still teach today, Jeremy Bentham's famous quotation from The Introduction to Morals and Legislation:
It may come one day to be recognized, that the number of legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum, are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate [of torture and death]. What... should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps, the faculty for discourse?...the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?... The time will come when humanity will extend its mantle over everything which breathes...
I stopped being vegetarian as suddenly as I began it. After 20 years of eating no meat I was faced with cooking a meal for 25 meat eaters on a regular basis, and just thought, 'I don't want to make something different for me.' Yes, I could have made dishes with no meat, but I didn't. I had long since fallen out of love with Utilitarianism as a moral theory: it couldn't protect the most vulnerable of humanity, never mind what it thought it could do for the animal kingdom and creation. Animals, alongside the rest of us, were in the pecking order of experimentation for the 'greater good' of the 'greatest population' residing in the future. So, I made a round of lasagnes and joined in. I have eaten a lot of different types of meat since, almost 4 years worth of eating things I did not know or could not remember. I do not suffer from the squemishness I sometimes see in others, 'I wouldn't eat a bunny! How could you?' The way I see it, if you are going to eat meat, learn where it comes from, prepare it, and don't make random distinctions on the basis of 'cuteness'.
I am still trying to find a way to work out whether eating meat is moral. This far I have got. I would never want any new industrialised society to eat meat the way the West does. I would never want an any new industrialised society to use animals the way the West does. I believe it does damage to our society to industrialise the farming of meat in the way we have. Eating meat everyday damages our relationship with creation, with nature and with our society. I am not saying here that eating all meat is wrong, but that it is wrong in great quantities, and linked to greed. The world, creation, cannot afford it.
So, since the Church suggests people should fast on Fridays, and since my friends, twin sister and brother are all good vegetarians, the time has come for a new series: vegetarian fridays. Of course, the traditional vegetarian days of ancient monastic communities were Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, so, feel free to branch out to three days a week. Twenty years of vegetarianism means I know that vegetarian food can be more varied, more delicious, more creative and more surprising than any meat inspired menu. I know it because becoming vegetarian inspired my love of creating delicious food in the kitchen.