||"Being A Veggie Was
by Tim Samuels
from "The Independent" (Dec. 18, 1997)
submitted by Naomi Colvin
As increasing numbers turn their backs on meat, former animal rights campaigner Tim
Samuels will be tucking into turkey for the first Christmas in 10 years. He explains why
he's decided to give up beanburgers and make the switch back to beef - after a decade of
For the majority of the population, the act of buying a cheeseburger at
McDonald's is a relatively mundane procedure. But after a decade of abstinence from meat,
making the purchase became a near-pornographic experience.
Standing in the queue warily eyeing up the McDonald's menu board, I was struck by a
sensation first experienced around the mid-1980s when stretching for the magazine top
shelf in a Manchester corner shop - the rush of adrenaline that heralds the triumph of
carnal urge over proxy principle. The simple cheeseburger had been transformed into a
smutty mag - a metamorphosis abetted by its being served in a brown paper bag.
Buying the burger represented a volte-face in my teenage relationship with McDonald's -
which largely consisted of standing outside its restaurants handing out leaflets
graphically depicting a cow upturned in an abattoir, blood gushing form its head, under
the slogan: "Would you still eat meat if it looked like this?" Back then
vegetarianism took on something of a quasi-religious status. Facts about the meat
industry, detailed in the glossy literature issued by animal rights' groups, carried the
reverence of absolute truths. My vegetarianism acquired an evangelical zeal after being
adopted as a "youth spokesperson" by the Vegetarian Society, precipitating a
series of cringing television appearances; the most retrospectively traumatic involved
cooking a broccoli dish alongside Cheryl Baker on her Saturday morning kids' show
"Eggs 'n' Baker" (marginally more embarrassing than preparing a veggie burger,
of all things, for an ungracious Terry Christian). Compensation did come, however, with
the opportunity to interview the Lord High Priest of Vegetarianism, Morrissey (naturally,
a "Meat Is Murder" T-shirt was donned for the occasion).
|Morrissey and Tim Samuels, 1989 (Sefton Photo Library)
Back to the queue in McDonald's. Edging closer to the front - still no
sign of remorse to make a last-minute killjoy appearance. However, a show of remorse would
only really be allowed on grounds of nostalgia for an adolescent era, when idealism was
the main player. But major changes in principles have taken place since then: idealism has
been substituted off, scepticism is the new star striker in town. It took scepticism a
while to settle in, but once it found form it was only a matter of time before
vegetarianism was hounded off the pitch.
"Can I take your order please?" Only one more obstacle now stood between me and
my McDonald's: the scare stories. According to such legends, a sudden return to
meat-eating prompts a violent bodily reaction: instant vomiting, days of diarrhoea - tales
luridly deployed as the final defence to keep the potential defector inside the camp.
Those affected by such complaints should have possessed the foresight to renounce their
vegetarianism at a McDonald's. Picking a lovingly prepared 7oz sirloin steak is just
asking for trouble, when opting for a cheeseburger leaves open the possibility that no
meat is going to be ingested. The first bite did rekindle certain memories in the
tastebuds: not from the distant days of carefree childhood carnivorism, but of a Veggie
Whopper last month at a Burger King by King's Cross station. It was something of a
disappointment just how close the imitation burger had come to emulating the genuine
article. Maybe a tad saltier, a little rougher to chew, but no major reunion with
long-lost taste sensations. And no vomiting or diarrhoea.
Considering the sacrifice involved in maintaining principles, they are enticingly cheap to
dispose of - 69p in this case. Having decided to make diet and belief congruous once
again, there was something deeply satisfying about sacrificing vegetarianism by dining
with the devil of days gone-by, Ronald McDonald.