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In defence of vegetarianism (For the angry Cornishmen)

I am often called into debates by virtue of my vegetarianism at parochial gatherings; ceaselessly challenged to justify myself by those with a bewildering and lusty resentment.

This happened most recently when I went home over Christmas at one of those, as a general rule, fairly intolerable festive parties (sorry Mum).

Reaching for a slice of quiche, I was accosted by a silver Cornishman (home being a rural Cornish village), and petitioned to defend my convictions.

Almost six years into my decision to be a vegetarian, this has become one of those especially irksome requests.

What seems to be the primary, and I shall contend, fairly arrogant argument levied at me, is that human consumption dictates the existence of animals slaughtered for meat.

This is true to some extent in the broader context of anthropogenic climate change and intensive farming practices.

Cow populations would invariably decrease in a world of human herbivore predominance, but crucially they would decrease to a more natural level in subtraction of the aforementioned intensive farming, and adaptation would surely ensure continuation independent of human resource use.

For example, the New Forest ponies are essentially wild, coexisting amongst settlement.

Their existence is not dependent on material human intervention, rather legal fictions, such as property ownership.

A second argument invocated seeks reason and rationality for my decision, and is one which when made coherently I do agree.

If eating meat was done by means of small-scale subsistence hunting, whereby all by-products of a kill are used, this would be a much more defensible, economical and sustainable version of predation.

However, sensible of contemporary farming and consumption patterns, this proposition is unfortunately irrelevant.

Meat is mass-produced; by this virtue in predominant lack of attention to quality of life, and as topically seen many animals are subject to cruelty before and whilst slaughtered.

This production process is sanitized in clean cellophane, so that consumers can make their purchases in dissociation with the violence of their product, in which they are now complicit.

Not to mention the considerable carbon footprint associated with this modality of consumption.

A final note: a call for the value of life.

Something does not need to die to sustain my life – I can survive without this.

As a nation of dog lovers (myself included), we cherish our pets; why is the life of a chicken or cow worth less?

It has been suggested that cows can form friendships; that they have the capacity to grieve.

Arguably there is more sensation going on beneath the surface than that observed in our distorted public figures (not necessarily suggesting cannibalism as preferential, although that councillor from Meet the Ukippers is fair game).

If, subsequent to these ideological contentions, a substantiation in physicality is required: I also just don’t like the taste. I’ll be in the corner with my quiche.

Kathryn Cheeseman

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