Part-time veggie James Manning explains why it’s time to give up as much meat as you can
Hey, you! I’m here to tell you that you should go vegetarian – or preferably vegan – in 2020. And I’m telling you this even though I’m not actually vegetarian. Or vegan. Or even pescatarian. I’d call myself a flexitarian if it didn’t make me sound unbearable. ‘Occasional carnivore’? ‘V-curious’? Whatever you want to call it, that’s me. I eat meat and I’m not happy about it.
I’m trying. In the last five years, I’ve cooked meat at home once. I try and order veggie or vegan options in restaurants whenever possible – except when I’m going for a Turkish grill, a Sunday roast, tapas or a barbecue. I love London’s vegetarian and vegan eateries – but mostly because they’re places I can avoid meat without having to crank my reserves of willpower into gear.
And yes, I’m fully aware that loads of people manage not to eat meat. According to our latest Time Out Index survey, one in 20 Londoners is vegan and a further one in ten is vegetarian. (One in five, like me, ticked the box titled ‘reducing meat’.) That’s a-million-and-a-half Londoners who find not eating dead animals seemingly effortless: a noble ability that makes me feel like a cruel, weak-willed monster. However, I suspect there is a key difference between me and at least some of that million-and-a-half: I love meat. Always have. As a kid, my idea of a good time was a massive plate of ribs. Later I got hooked on Spanish ham. If I’m in a place that does really good steak, I’m damned if I’m not going to order the really good steak. But the fact is that people who know about stuff (the UN, scientists, David Attenborough) seem unanimous that eating meat is making climate change a lot worse. Two million acres of Amazon rainforest burned in 2019 to clear land for cattle ranching. Still enjoying that steak?
Sure, there are some outspoken vegans with some radical beliefs out there, and you’re welcome to think they’re a pain in the arse. But is there anything more moronic than responding to someone saying they’ve gone vegan with: ‘Now I can eat twice as many burgers’? They’re doing something meaningful to try and stop an impending global catastrophe. You’re sitting giggling with meat juice on your chin.
That’s why I’m trying to go (more) vegetarian, and why you should too. Be part of the solution – so that if you do occasionally find yourself being part of the problem, like I did this very weekend at a Turkish joint, you can at least have the decency to feel bad about it.
Then learn how London’s top vegan chefs make their signature dishes.