Back in Spring, I decided to try and cut out meat for a whole month. I’d already decided to give it a go when I saw a post on Facebook promoting Meat-Free May. Perfect, I thought; let’s go shopping for broccoli.
There were a few different reasons for my decision: I needed to eat more vegetables; I wanted to learn how to cook vegetarian dishes; I was sick of eating the same things all the time (if there’s steak on the menu, it usually gets my vote). All of these are good, valid reasons. But there was another, more orange motive lurking in the shadows.
Three years ago, a little ginger kitten turned up at my house and refused to go away. I’d never had a cat; never been interested in having one (even a gorgeous, cute little fluffy ball of fun). So up went the posters: FOUND – orange kitten – ring this number.
Emergency packs of cat food were purchased (just enough for a week or two until the rightful owner turned up), a little bed was created and a trip to the vet was booked to check for a microchip. Told strictly not to give him a name, I quickly called him Kevin.
The vet thought that Kevin was a stray. Hmmm, I thought, but he’s plump with a shiny coat.
A week passed with no phone call. I found out that Kevin liked to sit on my knee and be tickled behind the ear. I woke up one morning and he was asleep on my shoulder, his face nestled against mine. He purred a lot when I gave him food.
At the end of week two, I had a little orange shadow that followed me around the house, nipping at my toes.
At the end of week three, the posters mysteriously came down one night and a pact was made: Kevin was going nowhere. Not even if a blue-eyed child with bunches turned up in floods of tears wanting her beloved “kittyyyyyyyyyy”. Ok, well perhaps in this instance but only with a sizable amount of heartache.
Three years later, Kev and I are tighter than ever, even surviving a house move together. He’s such a loving cat with a big, big personality. When he sees a bird he makes an ‘Akk Akk’ sound like the aliens in Mars Attacks. He likes to roll around on his back in the sunshine, sometimes falling off the decking and getting up to see if anyone noticed. He eats soap suds from the bottom of the shower. He likes to sleep on my, or at least half on me. He’ll run the entire length of the landing, skid into the bathroom, nudge his way under a mat and pretend that I can’t see him so that he can jump out and surprise me before running back down the length of the landing and hiding under my bed. He can open a pouch of cat food with his teeth and squeeze out the contents, basically feeding himself. He loves cheese and once extracted a slice of Dairylea from the fridge when I foolishly turned around to pour a glass of wine. He pees down the plug hole in the bath.
He’s weird. Just like a person!
And that started to play on my mind.
If Kev had such a distinct personality and character, surely other animals did too. Suddenly I didn’t like the thought of an animal being killed on purpose so that I could eat it. I started to dread something bad happening to Kev and think about the right of all things to live. I got a bit freaked out thinking about it, so I decided to give up meat for a bit and see how I felt.
The truth is; it felt great. I felt great! After a few days of no meat I felt lighter, had more energy, was sleeping better and felt more mentally alert. My skin also seemed healthier with less spots. Eating out was no problem at all, especially as I’d decided to still eat fish (well, I go sea-fishing once a month, so it would be a bit hypocritical). Veggie rice dishes and pasta dishes are great and veggie Indian food is out of this world. There’s so much that you don’t see on a menu when you only eat meat.
I lasted the month no probs, but then had a run of visiting friends and travelling around and it got a bit harder. Also, I still liked the odd burger! My conscience nagged at me, but I’d been a meat eater all my life and sometimes, to be honest, I didn’t give it a second thought. But the trial had shown me other benefits to avoiding meat, conscience alleviation aside. Benefits that I wanted to…well, benefit from!
I decided to eat meat as a treat – to keep it for special occasions when I was with friends.
Two months later, I still eat meat but my consumption is around 50% of what it was. I hardly ever eat lamb anymore, even though it was my fave, and tend to stick to chicken or beef these days.
During Meat Free May, I learned how to make a risotto, that I love aubergine when it’s cooked properly and that I can give something up if I really want to.
Funnily enough, Kevin wasn’t that keen on meat free may once he found out that there was no sliced ham in the fridge to go with his Dairylea.
Poor Kev! But well done me! I’ll continue on my mission to maintain my healthy balance diet.
By Lynne Thomas