It was feeling disgust at the thought of meat, and thinking, Oh God, I really have to do this, that made me think becoming vegetarian was like a gender transition.
I have long known that vegetarianism is a good choice. In nomad cultures, humans are in a symbiotic relationship with domesticated animals: we look after sheep, and take their wool, milk and meat. We save them from other predators. We find them green pastures. In modern factory farming, we are increasingly parasites, torturing them. We keep them in tiny cages, we prevent them from rolling over, we keep them pregnant constantly, we take their young away, we butcher the young. Meat is cruelty. I met a woman who would eat game, for this reason that the animals are free until they are shot, but grouse are systematically bred for the gun.
Meat is also cruel to the staff of abattoirs, who must kill animals all day, all week, clean up their blood and excrement, are paid minimum wage and are brutalised. Meat is cruel to farm workers.
Meat is wasteful of the Earth’s resources. There is not have enough land to feed everyone the meat-rich Western diet, even if all wild species are killed off.
I knew it was right for me, but balked at the effort it would involve. I was used to eating meat.
So I started experimenting. When out with my vegan friend I ate vegetarian, after being embarrassed to eat a rather lovely sea bass while she ate chips. We ate a lot of chips together after that. I found groups where people were vegetarian. Quaker shared meals are typically vegetarian. I would eat veggie meals with friends, and it would all seem perfectly normal. Then I would go home and find I was craving a bacon roll. How can I be vegetarian, if I cannot have a meat free day?
I found if I fried veg in a lot of olive oil, I no longer craved meat. I was after the fat, not the meat. Now I wonder whether I can interpret my cravings. I want a balanced, healthy diet. Will I know if I need protein? I don’t even know what is a reasonable size of meal. I have cooked the same things for years, and have to learn new things to cook. I baked a butternut squash, first googling to learn how: bake the seeds separately, as they are also tasty.
Society is arranged for the majority, not the minority. There is little fresh fruit and veg in the village shops. This minority is sometimes mocked, derided and despised.
I will eat meat if I want it, and will preserve this rule. I am still an aspirational vegetarian, rather than firmly and definitely vegetarian. It has to be what I want, rather than what I feel fits for anyone else.