Chapter 14 – Meat
‘There’s no hope for my dad!’ is the
most common complaint from young would-be veggies. When
trying to go veggie, it’s nearly always dads who
are the most difficult, the least understanding and the
ones who object the loudest. After you’ve gone
veggie you often find out that mums are more willing
to listen to the arguments, and sometimes become veggie
If mums do complain, it’s more often because they’re
worried about the inconvenience and not knowing what
to cook. But too many dads seem unmoved by the plight
of animals, and so for giving up meat – you must
be joking! So why the difference?
There’s an old saying which you sometimes hear
parents repeating to their little boys when they’ve
hurt themselves; ‘Big boys don’t cry!’ Given
half a chance, they certainly do. Given half a chance,
they certainly do. So is it that men and women are made
differently or it is because they have been taught to
behave the way they do?
Right from the time they’re born, some boys are
encouraged to be macho by their parents. You don’t
hear grown ups saying to little girls, ‘Who’s
a big strong girl then?’ or, ‘Who’s
my little soldier?’ And as boys get older, the
same sort of macho expectations continue.
Just think of the names used to describe boys who don’t
seem to be macho enough – weed, cissy and some
even nastier. They’re often used when a boy hasn’t
been ‘tough enough’ or has shown that he’s
frightened. Sometimes it’s even because a boy has
shown he cares about something.
As boys grow up there are other expectations that describe
the way they’re supposed to act – stiff upper
lip, not letting the side down, not being ‘hen
pecked’. When all these sayings and expressions
are put together over a person’s lifetime, they
become a constant drip, drip ,drip of pressure telling
men how to behave.
Men, according to these old-fashioned messages, must
hide their feelings and emotions and not show what they
really think. If you believe this baloney then being
a man means being hard and un emotional. It means rejecting
things like compassion and concern as ‘soft’ and
it means never showing that you care.
Of course not all men are like this. There are male
vegans, vegetarians and animal rights activists who are
the opposite of this unfeeling image. I’ve spoken
to some who used to fit this macho image but who eventually
rejected it. One friend of mine used to shoot birds,
rabbits and other wildlife. He says that every time he
looked at the creatures he’d killed, he felt guilty.
He felt particularly bad when he had only injured something
and it had escaped, probably to die alone and in pain.
That feeling of guilt worried him.
His real concern, however, was that he saw his feelings
as a sign of weakness – not very manly. He felt
sure that if he carried on shooting and killing things,
one day he’d be able to do it without the worrying,
nagging sense of being cruel. Then at last he would be
just like all the other hunters he knew. Of course he
didn’t really know how they felt because, just
like him, they never expressed their feelings. It wasn’t
until another bloke said to him that it was perfectly
okay not to want to kill animals that he was able to
admit to himself that he didn’t like hunting.
The answer was simple – he didn’t go shooting
again and he stopped eating meat so no one else had to
kill animals for him.
Most dads it seems, even if they’ve never picked
up a shotgun in their lives, have some of this confusion
in them. Part of the answer might be somewhere way back
in our history.
Early humans lived as hunter-gatherers but hunting wasn’t
just a way of providing extra food. In fact hunting was
often a very poor and inefficient way of feeding the
family. Instead, killing animals became tied up with
masculinity and being physically brave. In the Masai
tribe in East Africa, for instance, a young man wasn’t
considered a full warrior until he’d killed a lion
all by himself.
The real business of providing food usually fell to
women, who gathered fruits, berries, nuts and seeds.
In other words, they were the ones who did most of the
work. (Not a lot changes, does it?) It seems that hunting
was the modern equivalent of all the boys getting together
in the pub or going to a football match. The same attitude
seems to have carried on right up until today.
There is another reason why more men eat meat than women,
and come out every time I talk to group of young blokes.
They really think that eating meat, particularly red
meat, helps to build their muscles. Many of them believe
that without it they will be puny and physically weak.
Of course the elephant, rhinoceros and gorilla are great
examples of what happens if you eat only veggie food.
All this might account for why there are twice as many
vegetarian women than men and why women are often belittled
for it. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan young woman
then be prepared for the following insults – including
from some dads. It’s only because you’re
female – therefore over-emotional. You’re
not being rational – which is another way of saying
that caring is wrong. It’s because you’re
impressionable – in other words a bit soft. You
don’t know the facts – because science is
for men. What they’re really saying is that you’re
not behaving like a ‘sensible’ (unemotional), ‘clear
thinking’ (unfeeling) man! Now, did you ever need
a better reason to go or stay veggie?
Vegetarianism is for wimps?
Martina Navratilova, legendary tennis champion with
166 titles and nine times Wimbledon winner – vegetarian.
Robert Millar, world-class cyclist and winner at the
Tour of Britain, fourth in the Tour de France, and second
at the Tours of France, Spain, Italy and Switzerland – vegetarian.
Ed Moses, twice gold medallist at the Olympics for 400m
hurdles – vegetarian.
Sorya Bonall, world-champion ice skater – vegan.
Mr Muscle Man himself – Dave Scott, six times
winner of the Ironman Triathalon of the USA – vegetarian.
Sally Hibberd, UK Mountain Bike champion – vegetarian.
Judy Leden, European and world hang-gliding champion – vegetarian.
Carl Lewis, world-class sprinter – vegan.