I grew up in a small village, surrounded by fields of sheep and cows. So it seems only natural that I consumed 'The Heidi Diet' -- lots of cows milk, cheese sandwiches, and a Sunday roast. I won't lie to you, I bloody loved it.
And, I was pretty slow to really get that the cows happily munching away in the fields surrounding me, potentially endured unthinkable horror before becoming the beef that did such sterling work as an accompaniment to mum's Yorkshire puddings.
Despite this, it still came as something of a surprise to my ruddy-cheeked,16-year-old self to discover that I didn't want to eat animals any more. And, even more so to my mum, who's response to my burgeoning vegetarianism was, "fine, but you can cook your own dinner". I took that sensibly, and stocked up on veggies and cookbooks.
Another way to express my response would be to say that I had a humongous toy chuck, stropped off to my room and had a cry about the unfairness of it all and the selfishness of Mum and 'the poor cows'.
Two things have happened as a result of going vegan: 1) I've never felt so healthy and well and 2) I've never experienced so much s*** talk about a simple lifestyle choice.
With the joy of hindsight, I realise that with a full-time job, a household to run, volunteering commitments, a husband, two children and various hanger-onners to cook for, Mum simply took the sensible step of making one well-balanced, healthy meal, and if you didn't like it -- tough.
Following the standoff with Mum, laziness overcame my moral objections for a few more years. But, at some point during uni, I gave up meat. It helped that my best friend at the time was vegetarian which meant someone could show me the ropes, and not call me a loon for giving up bacon sandwiches -- the world's greatest hangover cure.
And, so it went that I was happily not a flesh eater.
Over the almost 20 years since then, I've progressively veered further away from meat and dairy, and these days go the full plant-based caper. Two things have happened as a result of going vegan: 1) I've never felt so healthy and well and 2) I've never experienced so much s*** talk about a simple lifestyle choice.
I guess it's to be expected -- the overwhelming majority of information we've been exposed to for the past 30 years at least has told us that animal products should form a vital part of our diet. And, we've assumed it's correct. So, it follows that anyone not following said advice must be deserving of rancour.
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Here's the thing, I also ate gluten very happily for more than 20 years. For seven years I experienced mysterious, apparently random, life upending symptoms including; hair thinning, rapid weight gain and loss, gum disease, insomnia, crippling stomach pains, constipation, diarrhea, arthritis and psoriasis -- and at no point did I consider that what I was putting in my mouth could be wreaking so much havoc.
Guess what? I was wrong. It turns out I have coeliac disease. Which makes me one of the annoying, but genuinely sick, non-gluten eaters. And, diagnosis day was life changing. Within three months, I had returned to full health. A food-based miracle.
So then I started to look harder at the food related information I was served up daily. Was it beneficial that the egg industry disseminated the majority of our information on eggs; the dairy on dairy and so on? After all, they are the experts (thank god I resisted the temptation of a cheap pun like eggsperts).
But, if we put another lens on it, could we call that propaganda? Maybe we should resist the lazy temptation to laugh in the face of the latest research, citing meats as carcinogenic. Maybe the need for CCTV to be installed across British slaughterhouses should be a wake up call to us. Maybe just doing what we've always done in the face of so much new and revised evidence is, dare I say it, ignorant.
I'll admit, like many people, I found 'What the Health' took things a little too far. But, maybe a giant shove in the vegan direction is what we need to reset the dial to zero. Maybe we've spent too long blindly assuming animal products are good for us -- whatever our viewpoint on the moral questions they raise. Surely, there's no doubt that being more educated on what we eat can only be a good thing.