I don't eat meat. Reviewing the 2014 Meat Atlas of the Friends of the Earth, there are 375million people in this world who lead vegetarian lives and I am proud to fall into that category. However, I will not be the one to violently protest on the picket line condemning you for your lifestyle or dietary choice because, ultimately, it is not my place - it is your choice after all.
The purpose of this is not to add fuel to the long-standing and sometimes heated dispute of whether you should eat meat; I feel a great many people already cover this agenda. You've more than likely seen the placards or the articles and you don't need me to reiterate.
My personal quarrel isn't over personal opinion or ethics, it's about undeniable statistics. Vicki Hird's 2014 article in The Guardian states that we throw away 570,000 tonnes of fresh meat every single year. Hop across the Atlantic and the picture is just as bleak - Statista claims that in 2012, $36.4billion worth of meat and sausages were wasted.
Now, it's obvious that this has severe economical implications but that is not what saddens me the most. Let's look at this another way.
Twelve billion lives. Almost double the entire human population of this earth. That's the number of animal lives taken each year, only to be unused and thrown away. Again, I'm not trying to persuade you that eating meat is wrong (on a Twitter poll I did for 24 hours last week 59% of the 11,061 people who participated claimed they're fine with eating meat knowing it was once an animal). Therefore, the majority of meat eaters in my life accept the killing of animals for meat, but I wonder how they'd feel about the fact that billions of animal are being killed for no reason at all? Would the same people be against the killing of these animals if they're not even eaten?
I've toiled over my personal ethics in the last 15 months of being vegetarian and explored various different theses on eating versus not eating meat. One argument that interests me and one that occasionally gets propositioned when I'm with my friends is that of the caveman: 'Cavemen ate meat, eating meat is hereditary'. Here's my response
Yes, cavemen killed, ate and wore animals. They did this to survive, that is indisputable. However, they utilised animals and that is the difference. Our ancestors did not fundamentally eat meat or wear leather because it was fashionable, they did so to sustain existence and battle the elements.
I have zero grievance with remote tribes who kill and eat animals for survival. I would also have difficulty arguing that buying a leather belt and wearing it for ten years is also wrong. It's about recognising what's genuinely required and using what we take.
Large food chains churning out thousands of kilograms of meat every month is not natural. They are not doing this to ensure the survival of the human race - they are capitalising on gluttony and increasing unnecessary slaughter.
I'm not going to tell you that you only deserve to eat meat if you can honestly say you'd kill the animal yourself because I appreciate that's not a realistic present day comparison. What I would ask though is that you think about what you're buying, making or ordering; think whether you honestly need to order that extra side of chicken wings, that additional stack of ribs. 18% of the 9,412 who answered another of my Twitter polls claim they only eat about half of their plate, with 14% saying they don't even know how much they leave. I'd argue that if you never finish your meal then maybe you simply don't require the portion size being made/given to you.
If I could persuade you to do one single thing it would be to at least eat considerately. By all means eat meat if you so wish, but please for the sake of the billions of animals that have died for your burgers and sausages, order or make more realistic portion sizes. I know that people will eat meat for the rest of time but I desperately hope we're able to drastically bring down that harrowing number of animals that are killed and then not used.