America vs Iraq. The Hutus vs the Tutsis. Israel vs Palestine. The Boere vs the English.

The vegetarians vs the meat eaters.

Groucho Marx said, “I’m not a vegetarian, but I eat animals that are.”

Paul and Linda McCartney said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.”

The battle between vegetarians and meat eaters is not a new one, but it is an increasingly publicised one with celebrities like Alicia Silverstone posing naked for advertisements promoting vegetarianism, and websites like popping up.

The first thing that needs to be clarified is that there are many different kinds of vegetarianism. There are those that still eat eggs and milk, those that eat eggs but not milk, those that don’t eat either, those that only eat fruit and those that only eat uncooked fruit and vegetables. But, for the sake of simplicity, the bigger category of vegetarianism includes all these varieties.

So what are the arguments for vegetarianism?

The Vegetarian Society of South Africa mention health reasons – meat contains saturated fat, cholesterol and contaminants. As Vegsoc say, “Plant-based diets protect us against heart disease, diabetes, obesity, strokes, and several types of cancer.”

They also mention cruelty to animals. They believe that because “animals in factory farms have no legal protection from cruelty that would be illegal if it were inflicted on dogs or cats” there are many cases of cruelty.

Then there is the environment. “Methods of farming animals for meat are poisoning and depleting our potable water, arable land, and clean air.”

And they go on to mention a few notable vegetarians in the world such as Mahatma Ghandi, Al gore and Albert Einstein.

Funnily enough, has their own list of evil vegetarians including Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson and Genghis Khan.

In the anti-vegetarian corner, the main reasons against vegetarianism are that it can be very difficult to make sure you get all the necessary nutrients from a vegetarian diet, as you have to eat a great variety of plants. Mainly many people just enjoy meat too much. Chef, Anthony Bourdain, said, “Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It’s healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I’ve worked with is brought down by any rumour of a cold.” Benjamin Franklin is said to have given up vegetarianism when he saw a smaller fish being washed out of a bigger fish’s stomach. He said, “Then thought I, if you eat one another, I don’t see why we mayn’t eat you.” The fact that animals eat each other is proof that there is a necessary circle of life.

The point is, if you put a vegetarian and a meat eater at a table together, you could get many reasons that support both lifestyles – some more ridiculous than others. It’s just one of those issues that will never be resolved. It comes down to personal choice. If you want to eat meat, eat it. If you don’t, don’t. Maybe we should leave it at that and keep the peace.


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