Below is an interview with Dom, a young vegetarian. Thanks, Dom!
The Young Vegetarian
According to statistics from The Vegetarian Society, young people have increased their awareness of vegetarianism from 8% in 2007 to 40% in 2013, with 17% of young people not eating any meat at all.
With this in mind, I set off to find a young vegetarian to seek his views and find out what made him become vegetarian. I met up with Dom, 21, from London, to ask about his transition from carnivore to vegetarian four years ago at the age of 17.
I think about my own experiences and reasons for becoming vegetarian over twenty years ago. My eating habits changed when I got a cat. I couldn’t bring myself to eat meat in front of her – even though I wasn’t eating cat, honest – as the connection between animals and what was on my plate became startlingly obvious. I asked Dom what the turning point was for him. He tells me eating wasn’t an important part of his life when he was younger. ‘It was just a necessity and something I didn’t really focus on. I never really enjoyed meat.’ Was that why he stopped eating meat? He says he started wondering what the point of eating meat was. ‘It’s not really a modern necessity,’ he explains. I’ve got to agree the boy’s got a point – we’re not cavemen anymore, after all.
I tell him my ‘couldn’t eat meat in front of my cat’ story. ‘Because your cat’s an animal? That’s a good defence for vegetarians to use.’ I’d never really thought about it that way before, especially as I try to avoid being in situations where I have to defend my choice of what I put in my mouth.
‘Hummus is the pâté of the vegetarian diet.’
Dom’s commitment and passion towards vegetarianism is obvious. ‘Bloody hell, meat is cruel. Factory farming is a no-no. Meat which is not factory farmed is expensive and that’s pretty bad too. It’s bad for the environment, it’s bad for the human body, it’s completely non-viable and besides… vegetarian food is bloody amazing.’ He stops being an angry young man for a moment and smiles. ‘When’s the last time a meat-eater had falafel or hummus?’ We’re with a friend of mine, Gary, and I point at Gary and tell Dom that Gary doesn’t like hummus. Dom looks at Gary as if he has two heads. ‘Hummus is amazing,’ Dom says. I agree with him and tell him I love hummus too. I’m not just humouring him, I really do love hummus. ‘Hummus is the pâté of the vegetarian diet,’ Dom declares. I have no idea what this means but I nod in agreement anyway.
Moving on from our mutual appreciation of mashed-up chickpeas, I ask him if he lives with his parents. He does, in their basement (he assures me this is a good thing and he’s not tied up down there as punishment for being vegetarian). Are his parents vegetarian? He raises his eyebrows, ‘Oh god, no.’ Remembering my mum’s reaction to me becoming vegetarian, which was something along the lines of, ‘It’s just a phase you’re going through’ – a line she kept up until I was at least 35 – I ask how Dom’s parents feel about him becoming vegetarian and am pleased to hear they’re mostly positive. ‘They had to give into it because they had no choice. They do veggie nights where they eat vegetarian food, so it’s been mainly positive.’ Dom seems to have an extremely independent set up at his parents’ house; he has his own fridge-freezer and cooks his own meals. ‘If I need to make something, I just get it out and make it. It’s not like I have to rifle through all the meat; being vegetarian is such an integral part of my life that I could never imagine riffling through meat picking out my vegetarian food.’ He’s a lucky chap; I’d left home by the time I became a vegetarian at 22 but I can’t imagine my mum letting me have my own fridge-freezer in her house, even if there had been room for one.
I ask him if he ever misses meat. ‘No, although a couple of winters ago, I used to get cravings and I thought what could this be and I realised it might have been a caveman instinct to gather meat to eat to brave the winter. I don’t miss meat in any personal way though, more the evolutionary way – do you know what I mean?’ Um, not really, but it kind of makes sense. He’s a deep thinker, is young Dom, that’s for sure.
Considering how deeply he thinks about things and how obviously committed he is to his vegetarian lifestyle, I wonder if he went full-on veggie from the start, or was there a transitioning stage? Thinking back to my own early days of veggieness, I ate fish at the beginning and it was only on discovering plaice had black skin covered with orange spots that made me stop (the chippy had run out of my usual cod. Cod doesn’t have freaky orange polka dot skin). Dom, unsurprisingly, tells me he read up on everything to see what was vegetarian, even going as far as checking out which E numbers were unsuitable. ‘E120, for example is bugs – that was out.’
‘Multinational corporations like Mcdonald’s will not miss you.’
I tell him about my fishy experience. ‘Fish have brains, fish have nervous systems – just because it’s not called meat doesn’t mean it’s not meat. I mean, chicken’s a meat. Meat is the flesh, isn’t it?’ he says. My 22-year-old self is now feeling guilty for not being a full-on veggie from the start.
I round off the interview by asking him what advice he would give to a young person who was thinking about becoming vegetarian. His response is suitably passionate. ‘Don’t fall back on stereotypes, keep a wide diet, eat plenty of antipasti like artichokes and stuff, stand up to meat-eaters and remember peanut butter is very healthy and has proteins and young people need protein. Be happy and remember you’re doing yourself and millions of animals proud and you’re also doing the world a lot of good too.’ He finishes by saying, ‘Multinational corporations like McDonald’s will not miss you.’
Wise words, indeed.