You can't have missed the recent news about the world's most expensive hamburger, £300,000 for a patty of, for want of a better word, pallid worms of grown matter, cloned from a cow.
I've heard some few reports on the news this morning that have caused discomfort amongst Joe and Jane Public that the stem-cells were taken from a DEAD cow. Well yes, quite. Although I think I'd be right in saying that the traditional process for recovering meat that goes on to be used as food involves the animal shuffling of this mortal coil and joining the choir invisibule fairly early on in the process...
Although a trip to McDonalds would be a damn sight more exciting if you went up to the counter, ordered your meal and then they lined up... Oh I don't know, a cow, a pig, a chicken, a horse and a manatee, gave them a kick and you had to chase them around trying to take bites out of them.
Excitement, adventure, exercise and fast food, what more could you ask for?
Any normal person would think that this was a splendid way to spend an afternoon... But what about those 'other' people? The ones who hear people say 'Oh...' a lot at barbeques, those whose very appearance at a social event can make the organisers run around in a sweaty panic trying to find nuts and baby-corn?
That's right, I'm talking about vegetarians.
Now, before you all start waving limp celery sticks at me and threatening to berate me about the head and face with organic, vine ripened kiwi fruit, I understand that there are as many completely valid reasons for being vegetarian as there are vegetarians.
You've got your religious reasons... Well, actually you kinda haven't, not really... There are very few, what I would call mainstream religions that say 'Thou shalt not eat of the meat.' OK, A lot of Orthodox Rastafarians are veggies, and Hinduism focuses fairly heavily on the non-violence towards animals thing and that means that a great majority of its followers are vegetarians too, but other than that it's pretty much up to the individual. In fact I understand that in Islam, vegetarianism by choice is frowned upon. You see? You though that some of the eastern religions weren't forward thinking! Buddhism, For instance, teaches that it's OK to eat meat, as long as the particular animal was not killed just so that you can eat it, which means that they can eat meat that someone else has killed to eat, but has given you their leftovers, and they can also buy meat from the supermarket. It also means that they can eat meat from an animal that has accidentally died, So if you ever accept a lift in a Buddhist's car, don't be surprised if they sometimes swerve violently to try to clip a beaver or peacock that they see by the side of the road - Although I understand that reversing over it repeatedly 'Just to be sure' is considered bad form.
Then you've got the 'Well I just don't like meat, tried it once, didn't like it.' section. Now, I'm the first person to say that if you've tried something and didn't like it, well that's fine... But really? Have you tried all the meat? - I mean, I don't particularly like kidney, which is technically meat, but I would beat a budgerigar to death with a rolling pin if I thought for a second that it was withholding a decent amount of bacon. Don't like veal? Fair enough - Munch on a faggot (Please note, for my American readers - a faggot, in the UK, is a type of meatball made from minced pig's heart, liver and belly meat... Often served with thick onion gravy, peas and mashed potato.) - It's like me saying that I don't like beans, because I once ate a carrot and it wasn't very nice.
And then there's, perhaps the most vocal group... The ones that everyone thinks of when you say 'Vegetarian'. The ones that don't believe that animals should be slaughtered just so that we can eat them, or object to the conditions that these animals are reared in, or the methods used to turn them into Happy Meals. Contrary to popularly held belief, I do not have a single, solitary problem with these people. I know quite a few of them (as biker / grebo / rocker / hippy culture tends to intersect) and not all of them are pale, thin waif-like types who keep banging on about the sacredness of trees and ladybirds having souls... Although, don't get me wrong, some of them are just exactly like that.
Unless of course, they're just doing it to make themselves seem interesting... I have written about this before, so I won't go over old ground - But they really make my knuckles spasm uncontrollably with their holier than thou radish breath, dull hair and hemp-based clothing free-trade produced from sustainable sources in areas where your money goes to supporting the plucky local freedom fighters in their war against the American-Funded fascist military Junta which took over in a coup six months ago and ousted the benevolent President. (lack of punctuation intentional to portray swivel-eyed, drooling maddists.)
So, is a vegetarian diet good for you? - It depends who you ask... If you ask a vegetarian, they'll say yes and show you pictures of vegetarian bodybuilders and a list of famous people who were 'eaters of the cauliflower' - But they'll cleverly avoid the 'Hitler being one' thing... Because no-one wants that. If you ask a non-vegetarian, they'll look at you funny and cook you a bacon sandwich...
Not a particularly difficult choice there, I think you'll agree.
Even if you do decide you want to lick the lettuce for the rest of your life, (easy Tiger!)you have another difficult choice... You need to decide which type of vegetarian you'd like to be. Who knew that there were so many types? (I freely admit to referring to Wikipedia for these, so some could be completely fictitious):
Ovo-Vegetarianism: You can eat eggs, but not dairy products
Lacto-Vegetarianism: The complete opposite of the above
Ovo-Lacto-Vegetarianism: you can eat eggs, dairy products and strangely, honey.
Raw Vegetarianism: Does NOT mean that you are only allowed to eat raw stuff - You can cook your veg, but only if you cook it at below 48deg C. (These people are definitely not mad, no sir.)
Fruitarianism: Not just fruit, but you can also eat seeds (Such fun!) and plant matter that you can collect without harming the plant - Although there is something of a Fruitarian Civil War going on at the moment about exactly what you can and can't eat - and whether you have to poop outside to return the seeds of the fruit into the environment - Famous Fruitarians include Steve Jobs and Idi Amin, I leave you to draw your own conclusions.
Sattvic (or Yogic) diet: Pretty much a plant-based diet, so no eggs (but you can get away with dairy if no-one's looking)... But, you can't have alcohol, black and green tea, blue cheese, chocolate, coffee, durian fruit, fermented foods, leeks, Mushrooms, nutmeg, onions, red lentils or 'sauces'.
Su Vegetarianism: No animal products at all and no members of the onion or garlic families (I'm thinking there's maybe a whole politeness / bad breath thing going on here)
Jain Vegetarianism: Yes to dairy, but no to eggs and honey and no root vegetables either as they contain a high proportion of micro-organisms, the eating of which would constitute eating an animal.
Then, there are also the ones that the students usually go for, these diets make even vegetarians look down on you... You really don't want that, it's difficult to describe anything more uncool.
Pescatarianism: Yes to dairy, eggs and honey, also yes to fish and seafood
Pollotarianism: Same as above, but with chicken
Pollo-pescatarianism: Means that you don't really like red meat (including pork)
Then there's the hardcore, the razor's edge, the grim avenger in the darkness that champions the cause of animals from the depths of the Marianas Trench to the Heart of Kathmandu. The Ninja of Nuts, the Ronin of Radishes, the Berserker of Beetroot...
Not only do these people not eat animal products... No Egg, No Dairy, No Honey, NO EXCEPTIONS! - They don't wear or use animal products either, (So no glycerin or tallow based soap or rubber gloves with the lanolin liner - Neither do they use shampoos, moisturisers and toothpaste that contains natural Allantoin, which they mostly get from cow's urine) and when they sneak up behind you in a darkened alley and slit your throat for eating a Big Mac, (Because they do do that) they will do it with a piece of driftwood that they've found and sharpened with their own teeth.
You can tell the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan because the vegan will usually have a tattoo, somewhere about their person, declaring the fact and they will look at your shoes and a vein will start to twitch in their temple, they will also constantly whisper the word 'murderer' under their breath at you if you're wearing a leather jacket.
But my favourite kind of vegetarian are the ones that practice Post-Modern Billbaileyism. A Billbaileyist is described in the ensuing quote from the great man himself:
'I'm a vegetarian. I'm not strict; I eat fish, and duck. Well, they're nearly fish, aren't they? They're semi-submerged a lot of the time, they spend a lot of time in the water, they're virtually fish, really. And pigs, cows, sheep, anything that lives near water, I'm not strict. I'm sort of like a post-modern vegetarian; I eat meat ironically.'
Right, I'm off for a bacon sandwich with extra brown sauce... How's about you?