You probably don't know this, but October is Vegetarian Awareness Month.
Being one of the smuggest vegetarians you're ever likely to meet, I naively thought writing a preachy blog for the 1st of October instructing you all to stop eating meat would take a matter of hours and the vegetarian community would label me a hero.
Instead I discovered how difficult writing on a subject you care about is and how essential it is when doing so not to come across as a pompous fool.
As a result I have obsessed over this piece for weeks, and the timely blog I had hoped to write has finally reached completion two weeks later than planned. The guilt consumes me, seriously.
I'm willing to bet that the words "Vegetarian Awareness Month" will have prompted a reaction of laughter, annoyance or total indifference from most of you. Or they simply made you want to stop reading this rubbish altogether.
Vegetarianism is a lifestyle choice so easily dismissed by meat eaters, unfortunately. This isn't particularly the fault of meat eaters - and it's patronising sentences like that from self righteous lentil suckers like me that do little to aid our cause and scupper any real chance of encouraging you to down your steak knife for an evening.
I completely understand. I really do. Us veggies are at times a pretty hateful bunch.
At our worst we are self righteous, self satisfied, judgemental and often extremely rude.
Being conscious of how vegetarians are perceived by the vast majority of people makes talking openly about it extremely difficult. Whenever I meet a new person it's only a matter of time before my vegetarianism comes up in conversation. It's at this point all of the connotations attached to the word begin to surface, the frustratingly familiar questions are asked and judgements of my personality are made.
Because of this, I often have to play down how staunch my meat-free militancy is to avoid confrontation with people who seem offended by my choosing not to eat flesh. Other vegetarians have told me that this is a common occurrence for them too.
This is a shame, as anyone who calls themselves a vegetarian will almost certainly do so for the myriad of ethical reasons to avoid meat, rather than the health benefits. In an ideal world I would be able to perfectly articulate these to every single person I encounter in the hope I would manage to somehow alter how they thought about consuming meat.
Instead, I shy away at the risk of being labelled some kind of nutcase on a mission to snatch the food from the mouth of anyone I happen to disagree with and throw buckets of blood over every person I see tucking into a kebab.
Awareness month is so important to me because its core aim is exactly the opposite of this. The purpose of awareness month is not to turn the entire world veggie, but to encourage people to consider that there really is an alternative to eating meat for every meal.
Hopefully by this point I have convinced you that I am not a lunatic hellbent on ridding the world all carnivores. All I ask is that you look at the three points below and click on the links to learn more. I won't even mention animal rights, I promise...
1) So much meat, particularly cheap meat, is sourced from irresponsible factory farmers who favour meeting consumer demands over not only the rights of the animals they bring into this world, but the health of the entire human race.
3) It's laughably easy to lose weight on a vegetarian diet. When I initially gave up meat I managed to lose around two stone on a diet that included four Twix bars a day and a dangerous amount of cheese. *Definitely not medical advice*
I hope that in a roundabout way I've at least succeeded in making you more aware of vegetarians, which I suppose is the ultimate aim of Vegetarian Awareness Month, if we are to take its name literally.
I hope too that you might consider looking into altering your diet, if only for the remainder of this month.
In the likely event that my arguments have failed to hit home, I'll try one final line of attack and leave you with a simple question, which to my mind can only have one sensible answer:
Now for heaven's sake, go and buy some carrots.Suggest a correction