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I love meat, but I feel guilty about eating it for several reasons. Two of those reasons are little lambs gambolling in paddocks at dusk and cows with their long eyelashes and liquid eyes.
I wish I was a different person. Either the kind of person who thinks of veal and their sole thought is ‘‘how delicious’’, or the kind of person who, by some stroke of luck, just doesn’t like the taste of it. It must be freeing to never have to chase away the thought, before each bite, that what’s on your plate was once bleating at its mother.
And if I didn’t like the taste of it I would be a militant vegan who looks with angry inquisition at everyone’s sandwiches for signs of moral failings. I would love that.
But I am not. Meat is the one thing I truly like eating (preferably heavily salted and in between flaky pastry) but with every bite I have to try very hard not to think about what I’m actually doing. Now, however, there is yet another reason to reduce my meat-for-every-meal diet, and one that I am finding more difficult to ignore: the planet.
I regret listening to the podcast that told me all about it. The synopsis said it was about whale songs and I found out too late that it was more about planetary destruction. One of the world’s foremost climate scientists gave the opinion that humanity only has one to two generations left.
The host, like me, didn’t like the sound of that and went through scientist after scientist trying to find someone with a better forecast, until she found a scientist who was known as not an alarmist. I looked forward to hearing it was all actually A-OK, and he said it was ‘‘only one to two generations if we did nothing’’. Which didn’t make me feel as good as I was hoping.
I listened to it while I was driving through the West Coast, the bush smell in the air, my small daughter leaning on my shoulder sleeping softly. God, one to two generations! I looked down at her shiny pigtails and little fingers. What would she have to see because of our choices? All this beauty that we were destroying.
It was clearly time to get back to my attempt on a lower environmental footprint that was rudely interrupted by a global pandemic and worrying that societal collapse was one to two years rather than generations. Meat. Meat is not something I should be eating as much as I do.
I know I am never going to be able give meat up altogether. I just love it too much, but I should not be eating it multiple times a day. The moral superiority will be nice. Like when I gave up smoking and the only good thing about it was when I could give condescending looks to clusters of people smoking outside in the rain. So I figure I will need a month of cold turkey (or lentil) and then only have meat for treats. Like binge drinking. OK every once in a while, not OK every evening.
My husband is not going to enjoy this. He only cooks two things; any kind of meat and potatoes. If I cook vegetarian he just looks sadly and says that he is not hungry, while picking around the edges like a cat with a lettuce leaf.
My family is also going to hate this. My father has decided I have lost my mind. My brother thinks I have turned on the family business and is only talking to me to snipe about hipster townie dickheads. And, I realise that New Zealand’s meat industry is a thousand times better than anywhere else, where miserable stock stand knee-deep in waste or spend cramped lives in sheds never feeling sun or wind or grass. And as well as a relatively nice life wandering outdoors our industry is so efficient that a New Zealand leg of lamb purchased in the UK has a lower carbon footprint than an English one.
And I know that everything is also pointless without huge systemic change legislated by multiple governments. But I also know that I need to do something. Because I won’t be able to look my daughter in the face if I don’t.
So I am starting with a month off meat.
Stand by for righteous suffering, Otago.