When I was nine years old, and going through what my atheist parents fondly called my “God bothering phase”, I decided to give up meat for lent. No more meat for me, I thought piously. I will be kind to all the little animals and stop eating them. God will like that.
Three hours later I ate pork chops for dinner because I’d forgotten all about it.
Five years ago, I was flicking through online dating profiles with my friend H, and I stopped at one. “Look, this one’s perfect!” I said to her. “He likes bluegrass and he’s vegetarian!” H looked at me. “Yes… You’re not, though.” I blinked back at her. I’d sort of… Forgotten that, somehow. A lot of my friends didn’t eat meat. I understood their reasons, and agreed with them all. But yet, I still ate it. I never got round to stopping.
Last year a friend shared a video of some cows on facebook. They were cantering about, playing with each other and doing clever animal things like unlocking gates. They were acting like massive dogs – and not just any dog, but, like, a collie. Obviously intelligent, and displaying character. “Look at this!” She said. “How dare people pretend that cows are just useless dumb animals? Look how lovely they are!”
I clicked “like” serenely and left a comment. “Absolutely!” I said. “I do eat meat but it’s so upsetting when people hide the fact it’s real animal. Those cows are lovely!” And I’m sure that all my steaks were comforted by the fact that I recognised that in life, as in death, they were lovely.
Really, I’ve just never wanted to examine my thoughts around it too deeply. It’s always seemed like a nice idea, something I absolutely support in the abstract. Something that I take as a sign of moral fortitude, in fact, and an indicator of compassion and thoughtfulness. But just… Not something I did. I had this idea that, as long as I acknowledged that I maybe shouldn’t be eating meat, that somehow made it okay. Because at least I wasn’t an apologist. At least I knew.
And then, I got Mary Lou.
The problems with keeping a pet rabbit in Britain today are two fold. Firstly, people will want to do “banter” with you. “Hahaha lovely!” They will say. “Bet she’d be nice in a PIE! Lololol.” The second is that, due to the prevalence of back to the 50’s hipster Gastropub joints, if you go out in Oxford there really is a better than evens chance you will be offered rabbit pie.
She’s a food animal, and she’s a food animal in my culture, right now. And also, she’s a family member. She’s sitting under my dining table as I write this. She head butts my food when she wants her ears stroked and if I’m ever visibly upset when she’s in the room, she hops over and sits next to me, all quiet and still.
Last week I went to a petting zoo. I met a calf just like in the video. It flopped on the floor like a dog and let me pat it, and when I rubbed it behind the ears, it WAGGED ITS TAIL.
So, I give up. I am not eating my fellow mammals or bird brethren any more, and I am unapologetic about my reasons. I only vaguely understand the environmental argument! I am still going to eat fish even though I understand they feel pain as well! I am merely avoiding cute food and I do not care what anyone thinks about it. Except these little goats, and I reckon they approve.