Al Gore has gone vegan, for which we should applaud him. As somebody who spent more than 20 years as a vegetarian, I certainly do – but I’m afraid I won’t be joining him. I fell off the wagon a couple of years ago, thanks to the irresistible smell of spicy Thai chicken soup, and I tell people it’s one of the best things I ever did. That’s being flippant, of course – going veggie was one of the best things I ever did. I just couldn’t keep it up.
Veganism has become something of a badge of honour in the US – Gwwore is following such figures as Joan Jett, Brad Pitt, James Cameron, Anne Hathaway and Woody Harrelson. He seems motivated as much by health concerns as animal rights or ecology; when I went vegetarian, I was the classic bleeding-heart liberal. It wasn’t that I didn’t like meat – quite the opposite. It was about the animals, penned and caged in sunless misery, pumped full of drugs, then stun-gunned and slaughtered.
My conversion came about thanks to a deer farm in the Highlands. As we were driving past one, my mother wondered what they were being reared for. To be released into the wild, where they might eventually be shot but would lead a decent and noble life – and might, indeed, end up dying of old age? Or were they being reared like cattle, destined for a meat hook? The former she could take, but not the latter.
That was illogical, I said; she was happy for cows and pigs to be part of a grim industrial process. During the ensuing argument, I realised I was espousing the vegetarian cause, and so followed 20 years of self-denial. It came to an end because I was ground down by living in a family of carnivores. Too many legs of lamb, sides of beef and rashers of bacon eaten in front of me while I tucked into my quornburger or vegetable kiev – all nice enough, but without that meat hit. Then came the spicy Thai chicken soup, and I cracked – since when I eat meat with the zeal of the reconverted.
My ethical position hasn’t changed, but I tell myself I have done my stint for the cause so I can live happily ever after as a meat-loving hypocrite. I never took the full plunge into veganism because it seemed too much like hard work. I was happy to do my ethical bit as far as it went without having my dietary choices rule my life. I had a vegan friend who seemed to spend his waking hours calculating how much protein he had had that day, and whether he would need to get some nuts or pulses down him to redress any deficiency.
I don’t know how much help Al Gore will be getting in his new lifestyle. Will he be opening a can of lentil soup last thing at night because he has not had enough protein? Or will a personal nutritionist have done the sums for him? He may be getting from tips from his old boss Bill Clinton, who calls himself a vegan although he permits himself salmon or eggs once a week for protein and iron purposes. Oh, and he also eats turkey at Thanksgiving – just one bite. Whatever you say, Bill.
Those weekend warriors and their little white lies
What did you do last weekend? After running a marathon for charity on Saturday morning, I manned the Samaritans’ switchboard in the afternoon, then took in a performance of Parsifal in the evening. Sunday was spent white-water rafting, mentoring inner-city youngsters and, er, watching Match of the Day 2.
There may be one or two inaccuracies in that account, though the last one’s definitely true. If there are, don’t blame me. According to a survey by lastminute.com, 2.5 million of us regularly lie about how we’ve spent our weekends to make them sound more interesting.
Frankly, I don’t believe it. My friends are aware I know them well enough to see through any claims to have, say, climbed the Munros or gone tombstoning at Angel Falls. The most frequently uttered phrase I hear in response to the question “What did you do this weekend?” is: “Oh, you know, the usual.”
Perhaps this confirms another finding in the survey, that too often we get to Sunday evening and feel the past two days have been a letdown. Lastminute.com sells weekend breaks, so it’s not difficult to guess what its remedy is. But could you ever be pathetic enough to tell fibs about it? Me neither.