Meatless Monday and vegetarianism in the Guardian

When Hadley Freeman wrote last week about how awful it was for her to be a vegetarian, I was puzzled. If it’s so awful for her, then the only thing keeping her from eating meat is that she finds it revolting. OK, I can sympathise with not wanting to be evangelical about it – having once been involved in evangelical religion, evangelical vegetarianism is not what I’d want to stand for either.

Now that I think about it, what puzzled me the most was when she mentioned she had “crap hair” and somehow related that to her vegetarian diet. Crap hair can be the result of many things, but plant eating? Not likely. Nutritional deficiencies can result in poor quality hair – but you can be a meat eater and still have nutritional deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, folic acid and beta-carotenes. Drug abuse will eventually give you crap hair. So will unfortunate hair genes. Also: post-pregnancy hair loss; extreme stress; crap shampoo; too many perms and colourings; excessive blowdrying. But not a plant-based diet. Hope I’ve cleared that up. I have a full head of thick, straight hair (thanks dad…) and my vegetarian diet has not made it thin out or go frizzy. Granted, I still eat eggs and cheese, because I think that dairy and egg farming are at least potentially redeemable enterprises in animal husbandry. My hens are very happy to leave eggs for me in return for the shelter and food I provide, and they are especially happy to have the run of the yard. If I could work around the logistics of keeping a cow and milking her twice a day, I’m confident we’d work out a good relationship too.

I was glad to see a response in today’s Guardian, by Seth Freedman, one of those rare vegetarians by upbringing. He wrote a straightforward response, in which he says : “the worst thing about being a vegetarian is that most people aren’t.” I’d say that’s true – there’s nothing like contemplating going out for a meal at a restaurant, and then realising you’ll probably be eating a chef’s salad and a bun, again.

I appreciate the way he points out that some of the animals we see as pets are seen as food by different cultures. He is more direct than I’m able to be when he says:

There is no defence of eating meat or fish that stands up to the cold light of moral scrutiny. If there was, then people wouldn’t keep animals as pets or differentiate between which species are or aren’t fair game for slaughtering and consuming. When the Venn diagrams of friends versus food inevitably overlap (dogs being eaten in Korea, horses in France, and so on), the duplicity of the meat-eating public is plain for all to see. One man’s pot roast is another’s pet, and neither side has a leg to stand on while they refuse to take an objective view of whether there is something ethically wrong with tearing the flesh off a carcass just to sate one’s appetite.

As much as I wish it weren’t true, he has made a very important point about our relationship with animals.

Hadley’s column was in response to Paul McCartney’s promotion of Meatless Monday, an effort to encourage more people to consume less meat. A great initiative.

Explore posts in the same categories: human behaviour, human-animal bond, Nutrition, vegan, Vegetarian

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10 Comments on “Meatless Monday and vegetarianism in the Guardian”

  1. deBeauxOs Says:

    How about keeping a nanny-goat? Would the logistic be easier? Come to think of it, why is goat milk not on offer at trendy coffee shops – is it because cows are easier to exploit commercially? Or is it just a taste thing?

    Mmm – I’m sure inquisitive today.

  2. brebis noire Says:

    Heh, actually I do have a nanny goat by the name of Clopinette, but she’s getting kind of old to have kids, and I never had much success in the past with getting her bred and/or having milkable teats (she had mastitis). In my mind, she’s a “pet”.

    But some friends of mine have a few goats they milk every day; they not only drink the milk, the make some great cheese with it. Yes – easier than a dairy cow all around. One of the problems with dairy production is what to do with the male calves/kids, of course…

    There are a few particularities about goat’s milk that make it less versatile than cow’s milk (i.e. the non-homogenisation; it also tends to have a bit of a smell, especially if there’s a buck around), but it’s also a question of culture and custom.

  3. Hadley, who is a fashion-lifestyle columnist, has that particular laddette combination of snark and self-deprecation. Although she is originally from the US, she has mastered it far better than Leah whatshername.

    Seth Freedman’s rebuttal was good – except for his “look at me, I’m proof you can be vegetarian and healthy”. But if this means vegan, and not ovo-lacto, there is the problem of whether one can digest legumes. I’m cooking up some little du Puy lentils – they are one legume I can usually tolerate without “digestive distress”. Cooking them up tonight to use in a salad tomorrow…

    As for Hadley’s hair, it is naturally as curly-kinky as mine (she is Jewish; of course not all Jewish people have curly hair but it is common among many people, not only Arabs and Jews, but also southern Italians and others, originating around the Mediterranean basin). But that would NOT due for a lifestyle columnist; she had another column about her constant blow-drying and hot-combing.

  4. brebisnoire Says:

    The time in my life when I had crap hair was when I wanted it to be big and curly so badly that I got perm on top of perm and used hot rollers nearly every day. My hair dried out and was a mess of split ends. When I finally realise that flat, straight hair was not so awful and let go of the curl-envy, I started to grow a healthy head of hair. I imagine the opposite is true as well.

  5. Absolutely. Back in the days when long, straight hair was the norm (I mean late 1960s – early 1970s) at one point when I was a teen I had it chemically straightened. Back then the chemicals were very strong and it turned my hair into a board, but it “went home”, as mixed-race “Cape Coloured” ladies say, every time it rained. Although Hailey has better technology and both the money and (unfortunate) professional need to have that stick-straight hair modern starlets have, still having to do it constantly screws up the hair.

    I’ll do the meatless Monday (and have been trying to eat far less meat, which in my case is mostly chicken and fish – I almost never eat red meat) but it is easy this time of year and living so close to a wonderful farmers’ market! Harder in the wintertime, without eating too much starch and putting on weight.

  6. mouthyorange Says:

    I stopped eating mammals over 30 years ago. One day I was at my mother’s — I would have been in my very late teens or early 20s — and she had made delicious Greek pepper steak, which I loved. I was holding a forkful in mid-air on its way to my mouth when suddenly I saw what was on the fork as a hunk of flesh of another being rather than as food. I put the forkful down without eating it, and essentially, that was it for me as a meat-eater.

    I want to stop eating the flesh of all conscious, feeling beings. It’s been difficult for me because I am hypoglycemic and often need a solid hit of protein to correct my blood sugar level. Being vegan, which I tried for a number of months somewhere in my early 20s, was wonderful for me and it’s what I would love to do. I did it very carefully and cooked legumes and grains for myself to put together the correct amino acids to make protein for me. I felt fantastic and in many ways was probably the healthiest I’ve ever been during those months. But I found it almost impossible to get my protein needs met once I walked out the door into the world — it can’t be done solely on chef salad and a bun, and my cooking was so labour-intensive that it seemed I could only sustain the ideal vegan diet for myself if I didn’t leave my apartment to go to work all day or anywhere else for any length of time. Since then, I have eaten fish and other sea creatures as well as birds, and I remain regretful and conflicted about doing it. I don’t want to! And yet, having grown up with such eating practices, I also enjoy them. It’s a very complicated and difficult issue.

    Although it has been made to me, I do not buy the argument that having physically limiting conditions justifies that people eat the flesh of others. Such conditions, whether arising out of health issues, geographical location, or economic restrictions may force people to make short-term choices to do this, as I have done up to this point. But it’s my view that if humans were living more decently we would not be creating most health issues or economic restrictions anyway. I’m not sure how to solve geographical issues such as living in a climate that’s mostly winter where veggies haven’t been able to grow as much as elsewhere, and I don’t want to dictate what people from cultural backgrounds other than my own mainly secular Toronto background ought to do, but I’d also not be honest about what’s in my own heart if I denied that I wish we could all evolve — in a way that would make us all happier and more fulfilled; not in a way that’s more restrictive — to a point where we didn’t want to eat animals anymore. I think that a lot of things can change and evolve to be more humane than they have been, if people weren’t constantly being set back by obstacles that other people throw in their paths. At this point, we don’t even know what life would be like without that!

  7. Joey Lee Says:


    Joey here, from Meatless Monday. I just wanted to thank you for mentioning our campaign and one of it’s more prominent participants (Sir Paul) in this post. Meatless Monday is a public health initiative which encourages people to moderately reduce the amount of meat they eat (cutting it every Monday would reduce consumption by 15%) in order to prevent disease as well as conserving environmental resources and reducing our carbon footprint. We’re a project of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health so our website can be a good resource of nutrition articles and tips.

    I’d love to be in better touch so I can easily alert you to any new developements in the campaign. If you’re interested, please email me at

    Happy Monday,

    Joey Lee
    Executive Assistant
    Meatless Monday

  8. I remember as a kid driving in the country and seeing a cow open her mouth. What did I see in there but tongue! (Not a meat I liked but still…) And I suddenly realized that tongue was a tongue. I had to wait until I was an adult to be a vegetarian, but my kids have been raised as vegetarians and they have beautiful hair. I don’t. I suspect it has more to do with the luck of the gene pool than meat or lack thereof.

  9. Lilian, working a lot in poverty issues I see that bad nutrition (not necessarily vegetarian by any means) really screws up the hair.

    I was glad to hear mouthyorange’s problems, as I have similar problems. I really need protein, or fear health problems down the road. But I hope we can work on finding compassionate – and gastronomic! – solutions.

    Joey Lee, I did Meatless Monday, and not even with a lot of cheese (and no egg, but that was because I had none on hand). But that is not so difficult with grilled asparagus and a lentil salad with fresh local rocket (arugula) and other yummy and healthful things. Very hard in the middle of our bitter winters.

  10. mouthyorange Says:

    (Gently,) “Hey, brebis, we miss you.”

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