Saturday 21 September 2019

Barry Egan: I'm taking my vegetables to save my bacon

The boiling piglets were the clincher for Barry Egan. But, having jettisoned the meat, his liver is taking a battering

Healthy: pasta and vegetables
Healthy: pasta and vegetables
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

One word to, perhaps, put you off vegetarianism as a moral choice: Hitler. Adolf Hitler was a strict vegetarian. And you can't get a bigger bollix than him, or his pal, Himmler, who wanted those gentle souls, the SS, to go vegetarian. I hope that doesn't give you indigestion after your tofu with brown rice.

If you have to have a principled justification to give up meat, I just stopped thinking it was right to eat animals. George Bernard Shaw asked, "While we ourselves are the living graves of murdered beasts, how can we expect any ideal conditions on this earth?"

I gave up meat three months ago, not so much to save humanity as to save myself. I felt like a fat blob. A fat blob with no energy. I have more energy now, even though giving up meat doesn't necessarily help you lose the weight. Vegetarian food is sometimes – even mostly – full of sauces, cheeses, and the like. Eating vegetarian in swell places in Dublin in order to lose weight, is like reading Playboy for the articles.

In the end, I thought the increased risk of getting cancer and heart disease from eating something injected with growth hormones, antibiotics, and antidepressants before it was slaughtered inhumanely – suffering huge stress from what was about to be done to it – was something I'd prefer not to take a chance on any more.

And, if I am going to die prematurely, I want it to be from good old-fashioned, work-related stress, or a heart attack brought on by money problems, credit-card debt or bills from foreign nightclubs – not courtesy of processed meat loaded with enough chemicals to get Keith Richards high.

Some context. After Christmas, I read bits of Humanity on a Tightrope by Paul R Ehrlich and Robert E Ornstein, where the quandary of how best our species is to survive was posed through the question: "Can we reach biosphere consciousness and global empathy in time to avoid planetary collapse?"

Empathy-deficient existential crisis was one thing, but feeling bloated and overweight with an overabundance of yuletide meat – turkey, ham and spiced beef – was quite another.

Some more context. On Stephen's Day, I watched Vegucated on Netflix, a documentary that charts the lives of three meat-loving New Yorkers who adopt a vegan diet for six weeks. What was more depressing than the accents of these self-obsessed New Yorkers was the way the animals were treated.

Seeing a little piglet swimming in boiling water meant I could never look at – let alone eat – sausages again without remembering those poor piglets in the boiling water and feeling sad.

Worse was to come – seeing how animals suffer and die. "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian," Paul McCartney said. Which is true – but, if everyone heard Paul McCartney's last album, it would probably put you off The Beatles. I've eaten only vegetables and pasta since Christmas.

With the amount of red meat I was eating prior to that, I convinced myself I was going to die of bowel cancer.

The only problem I have with vegetarian food in restaurants is that, sometimes, there is feck-all choice – I had roasted onion and parsnips as a main course in a five-star eatery in London recently – and I am bored off my tits before long. To alleviate the roasted onion ennui, I end up drinking more red wine than I would normally.

I concluded that, instead of dying prematurely from eating too much processed, hormone-injected red meat from depressed animals, I am going to die prematurely of cirrhosis of the liver from too much booze.

I grew up in a family when a dinner wasn't a dinner unless it had meat, and a night out in a restaurant wasn't a night out unless you had steak.

Now, a night out in a restaurant is not a night out unless I've had roasted onion and parsnips as a main course.

I got drunk one night in January and fell off the veggie wagon. I ate some chicken wings at a party in town.

I woke up the next morning feeling like I had been with two disease-riddled Thai hookers. I felt so guilty that I told my fiancee. It was like she could see the chicken-wings guilt in my eyes.

Morrissey was right when he sang "Meat is murder." But, unfortunately, so is my veggie cooking currently.

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