1. Being an Irish vegetarian is like being French person who doesn’t eat cheese or drink wine, you are largely regarded as a freak. Accept that early on and you’ll spend less time bashing your head against a wall when people ask you if it’s just a phase.
2. I partially understand why it seems odd for an Irish person to go veggie. Ireland is full of cows, pigs and sheep and our seas and lakes are full of fish so choosing not to eat animals could seem a strange choice. But like the wonderful Irish writer George Bernard Shaw (and one of Ireland’s most famous vegetarians) said: “Animals are my friends and I don’t eat my friends.” Or as I say “It’s my life, get over it.”
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3. Vegetarians don’t hate food, or people who eat meat. Despite what you (or restaurant critic AA Gill who said veggies are “people who get pleasure from not eating things”) say, vegetarians aren’t doing this to be difficult, ruin your life/dinner party/wedding. And we love food, just as long as it doesn’t have eyes.
4. People seem to get very confused about what vegetarians do and don’t eat. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked “But do you eat chicken?” or “What about eggs?” (to which the answers are no, and yes respectively). Good general rule of thumb: if it has a face, vegetarians don’t eat it.
5. We’re a rare breed. No one really knows how many vegetarians there are in Ireland. Despite having a Vegetarian Society of Ireland, there are no reliable figures on how many Irish people actually live a vegetarian lifestyle but it’s thought to be one of the lowest rates in Europe. Some estimate we have a similar amount of veggies per capita as our nearest neighbours in Britain, which means about 1% of adults and children are vegetarian, with less that 1% following a vegan diet.
6. Risotto is not, and should not be the only thing you can serve a vegetarian if they come for dinner in your home. Before you panic and think ‘what am I going to feed this awkward hippy’ stop and think about what you like eating, then subtract meat. Burgers, pasta, lasagne, stew, pizza, pies, roast dinners, soups, salads – all delicious minus the meat.
7. We really don’t care if you eat meat or not. We’re not Mormons on a mission to covert you, we’re not hippies who don’t wash and we’re not in a cult, so chill.
8. ‘Ah but you wear leather shoes you hypocrite!’ Ok, let’s deal with this one. Some of us wear leather, some don’t. Many vegetarians believe it is acceptable to wear leather because it’s a by-product of the meat industry where the animals weren’t killed just for their skins, others just can’t bear the sight of vegan shoes. If you have a problem with this then I want to know why you think what goes in my mouth or on my feet is any of your beeswax.
9. Fur is a different matter. Each year more than 40 million animals are killed for their fur worldwide. Around 85% of fur comes from farmed animals. If you saw the conditions on a mink farm you wouldn’t wear fur either…and who are you anyway Cruella de Vil?
10. We like barbecues. And we really appreciate it when you have an option other than a dry potato in tin foil. Also, you know the tongs you used to touch that steak? Keep that bad boy away from my Linda McCartney sausages please.
11. If I have a kid (my choice), I’ll raise it vegetarian (also my choice). If you think that’s tantamount to child abuse, then I’ll come to your house and tell your child that the chicken on its plate was slaughtered inhumanely after a miserable and short life in a large windowless shed holding tens of thousands of birds, covered with a layer of litter and with no space before being are shackled upside down whilst still conscious, before their head and neck was dragged through an electrically charged water bath. Yum!
12. If you find the thought of raising your kid a vegetarian offensive, then what about your pet? Oh yes. It’s true. If you are interested there’s more information on feeding your dog or cat a veggie diet here.
13. We’re not denying ourselves. Seriously this is the thing meat eaters ask most: “but don’t you ever just really want a bacon sandwich?” to which the simple and honest answer is no. I don’t salivate when I smell bacon, I gag.
14. Christmas is still possible without meat. But what happens at a vegetarian Christmas I hear you ask? Well, I get up at lunchtime in a foul mood and harass my mother until dinner is ready then sit at the table stuffing myself with four times more food (including but not limited to: bread sauce, stuffing, cranberry, spuds, carrots, parnips and sprouts) than normal inbetween occasional grunts at my family and then drift into a food coma in front of Titanic. So basically my Christmas is the same as yours, just without killing a big funny-looking bird.