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Vegetarians cause me grief

As I type this, it’s late Saturday afternoon, and my hands are shaking deliriously, my eyes have shrunk to the back of my head, my gums have gone all mushy, my teeth are falling out, my bones are like butter and I’m pretty sure the dull thudding sound in my ears isn’t normal.

I had a vegetarian meal for lunch. It wasn’t by choice. As I battle with what is undoubtedly the onslaught of kwashiorkor, I have a question. How do you vegetablists live with yourselves?

In a world filled with all manner of meat cuts, from bratwürst to tender sirloin steaks, how can you enter into a restaurant, take a long, hard look at the menu and then order the tofu option? I don’t get vegetablism at all. Firstly, vegetables are gross. Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Juju Malema, cabbage, all utterly, utterly awful. I myself can only really enjoy a salad if the slatternly taste of the lettuce and tomato has been subdued by olives, feta cheese and a generous helping of dressing. I’m not being childish, here. Well, not entirely. If you would only strip away the pompous trappings of vegetablism, you’d agree that as far as the palate is concerned, you’re holding the muddy end of the stick.

Now consider a good porterhouse steak, done just how I like it. Tender, with a thin slice of pink in the middle. It’s a treat for the eyes, a delight to the nose and a sky-high trip for the taste buds. It’s like taking your tongue for a full body massage, only submerged in mint sauce. Heaven, pure heaven.

There’s the other type of vegetarians. The really pale, thin ones. Vegans. The fanatics. I like to think of them as the provisional wing of vegetablism. I’ve had the odd run-in with these vegan people. My reaction is always the same. Shame, man. All that malnutrition can’t be fun. And their reaction to that is always the same. They faint, but only after losing too much energy, trying to swing a punch at me. Tsk. Really man, shame.

Of late, vegetablism isn’t just about the ridiculous diet and halitosis any more. It’s become a fashion statement, something hip young things do. Apparently we should quit the pork sausages because the glaciers are shrinking and everyone in the Solomon Islands is going to drown and the globe is warming. How they came to this conclusion is somewhat beyond me, but apparently has something to do with cow farts, the ozone layer and methane. The thrust of their argument is that it’s not actually the greedy warmongers at General Motors that are causing the polar bears to drown, but the flatulence of Daisy and Betsy in the shed. I think. So, to stop the livestock from farting all the ozone away, we should stop eating meat, because mince meat is why Farmer Brown keeps cattle.

Vegetarianism is now eco-bling, taking its rightful place alongside the Toyota Prius, solar panels on the roof and streaming George Monbiot speeches live off the internet. It’s so very 21st century. Even more than making you like the kind of person who’d have no idea who Henry Kissinger is, it affords the grass-eater a measure of moral superiority. Green bragging rights, something to thump your malnourished chest about around the brassier at the next environmental protest outside yet another G20 conference.

My philosophy is quite simple. Live and let live — in the case of vegans, live and let die. I do me and you do you. I may find your dietary habits odd and perhaps quite insane, but if that’s what you want to eat, then bon appetit. Trouble is, the reciprocal is never true. Vegetarians cause me so much grief. They’re the biggest source of under-the-skin, itchy irritation in my life, more than taxi drivers, traffic cops and government workers. As soon as they see meat on my plate, they’re at my heels, yapping away like a pack of excitable terriers. I know some of my friends, who are avowed vegetablists, will cause me even more grief after reading this. Why can’t you vegetarians let me do my carnivorous, Neanderthal thing in peace? Why must I always be forced to listen to anti-meat sermons every time I munch on a chicken and mayo sandwich? Why the pressing need to instil a sense of guilt in me for having the temerity to order the something meaty pizza?

If your issue is with the exploitation of animals, consider what will happen should all 6 billion of us decide to stop eating meat. You really think Mildred the Cow is going to spend the rest of her days listlessly chewing the cud, wondering why the farmers have stopped pulling at her teats. All the livestock are going to be slaughtered. And you know how post-modern man (excuse me, post-modern person) is — we like to avoid unpleasantness as much as possible. We’ll get the militia to do something about the cattle, preferably far away where we won’t have to face the consequences of our choice. What’s the cheapest way to kill a cow? I’m sure you’ve seen No Country For Old Men. Remember that shooting pen, gas thing that Javier Bardem kills the traffic cop with? Yep. Whether we choose to eat meat or not, the cow’s going to wind up dead. It’d be a shame to let those fillets go to waste.

Look, I’m not some M-16 wielding, tobacco-chewing, eco-hating redneck. I try to keep an open mind. Perhaps I too will one day forsake the art of the butcher for shrubbery, live in a tree, wear hemp and change my name to Ganja Moonbeam. Right now though, I’m far too poor for that sort of nonsense. A man’s got a living to make. When I’m as rich and fat as Al Bore, I’ll consider eco-vegetablism. Maybe. For now, meat is how I choose to live. So I’m asking you vegetablists very nicely, on behalf of all people who have not forsaken the culinary ways of their forebears. Leave. Us. Alone.


  • Sipho Hlongwane

    Sipho Hlongwane is a journalist and columnist for the Daily Maverick. He is an avid fan of jelly beans, Top Gear, Arsenal and thinks that South Africans tend to take themselves a little too seriously. [email protected]