Saturday 19 October 2019

Ian O'Doherty: 'Joyless vegan fundamentalists just love to wag their fingers'

Activism: Protesters hold placards and banners during an animal rights march in London
Activism: Protesters hold placards and banners during an animal rights march in London
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

Ask most people if they like children, and you won't necessarily be able to predict the answer. Ask most people if they like animals, and you're much more likely to get a positive response.

In fact, have you ever actually heard someone say "I can't stand animals" in the same way that some people, myself included, will state they just don't like children?

Yet, according to some schools of thought, you have no right to call yourself an animal lover if you also like to eat meat.

It's part of the fatuous, binary equivalence which has become de rigueur in today's society, which dictates that if you like one thing, you can't like another - and is another example of the way crackpots try to dictate the behaviour of others.

As it happens, like most of us, I love animals, and I love meat - that's not hypocrisy, or trying to have it both ways. It's simply recognition of the fact that we are top of the food chain, we are carnivores and meat is a fundamental part of the diet of the vast majority of people.

Of course, as we approach the tail end of 'Veganuary', some of you have probably decided to eschew meat and all products in favour of what is now known as a 'plant-based diet.'

And if you have? Well, good for you.

But even that choice isn't enough to make our vegan friends happy.

I once spent a rather enjoyable evening with the late, great Anthony Bourdain and once he got on to the topic of vegans (as opposed to veganism), he was unstoppable.

Vegans, declared the chef, are the Hezbollah of the vegetarian movement; a bunch of joyless, sullen, humourless fundamentalists who are incapable of seeing any other point of view.

He then went on a rather gruesome and biologically explicit rant about just what he would like do them - it was extremely funny but, sadly, was so violent and profane that I couldn't possibly put it in print.

I was reminded of Bourdain's contempt for such activists when this newspaper ran an interview with a leading Irish vegan earlier this week.

According to this campaigner, it's not enough to simply stop eating meat or using any animal products, oh no.

Instead, she argued that: "There is no such thing as going vegan for health reasons. People may adopt a plant-based diet for health reasons, but that is not veganism. Veganism is a moral issue."

If that's not one of the definitions of absolutism then I don't know what is - no room for compromise, nuance or subtlety of thought. It's also a reminder that vegans don't see their dietary choices as what they do, it's what they are.

It's yet more identity politics and, as always with identity politics, it's all about posturing and one-upmanship.

You might have thought that someone who follows a vegan lifestyle is, well, a vegan. But you are wrong, you meat-eating monster - you have to really, really mean it.

Of course, it's none of our business if someone wants to spend their days eating wood chippings and tofu and the recent ruckus over English pie shop Greggs introducing a vegan 'sausage' roll was almost impressively stupid.

After all, if they want to sell it, and people want to buy it, then it's not harming anyone else, regardless of Piers Morgan and his fake outrage might say.

People simply have another choice and life is about making choices.

But the hardcore vegans don't want anyone else to have the luxury of choice. Instead, they want to impose their own sour interpretation of the world on to the rest of us.

It's hard to escape the impression that many of the vegan activists aren't motivated so much by their love of animals as they are by their hatred for people.

A perfect example of that came before Christmas when it emerged that the ringleader of one vegan 'direct action' group, which had a habit of barging into butcher shops in England and screaming at the customers, was the daughter of a man who had made his fortune in the meat business. A classic case of daddy issues if ever there was one.

When she was asked about that apparent disconnect, she sniffed that the question was 'offensive' and promptly had a little cry.

We have yet to see any butchers being invaded by militant Irish vegans, perhaps because our native cranks are smart enough to know that it's not a good idea to annoy someone who works with a meat cleaver all day. But across the UK and even France, there have been incursions into butchers and, memorably, one farcical attempt to shame the patrons of a steak house in England.

On that occasion when they tried to play a tape of animals being slaughtered, the diners, conducted by a dwarf dressed as an Oompa Loompa, started chanting "stand up if you love meat", and the activists were ushered out the door.

The question of how we treat our livestock isn't so much an issue of animal rights as it is human responsibility - after all, the chicken has no right against being eaten by the fox. But we are moral beings with a moral obligation to provide the best conditions possible for the animals which provide our food.

In the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy meat and, frankly, they'll have to take my rack of smoked ribs from my cold, sauce-covered hands...

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