Thursday, 10 June 2010

Can Veggies Have Non-Veggie Heroes?

The Vegetarian Society has launched an initiative to celebrate those who actively promote vegetarianism, inspiring others to follow suit. Called “Veggie Achievers”, nominations can be for prominent figures in the media or for unsung heroes closer to home. Celebs such as Joanna Lumley, or the McCartney clan immediately spring to mind. I commend the society for choosing to recognize those who lead by example, but what about rewarding role models not of the veggie persuasion? I can think of plenty of non-veggies who are just as instrumental for their animal and environmentally friendly convictions. Don't they too deserve recognition of their achievements? As a committed veggie, is it hypocritical of me to also want to celebrate those who don't aspire to a vegetarian path? Does it make me less of a veggie in the eyes of others?

If this category were allowed, who then would I choose to nominate? My first choice would have to be marine biologist, Monty Halls, and his faithful companion Reuben. Who could fail to be won over by this lovable duo? The honour and respect Monty demonstrates to the natural world – its resources and many forms of life, is commendable. I am inspired by his efforts to learn, to educate others, and to nurture and live sustainably off the land. This, the breathtaking scenery, and Reuben and his love of pebbles, has made these documentaries a joy to watch. Reuben deserves an award all of his own! I gather this choice may be controversial to many veggies due to the rearing and slaughtering of animals, but I find Monty's attitude to this refreshing. He develops close-knit and endearing relationships with them, (particularly the pigs – Gemma from the first series, Smoky and Streaky in the latest), which shows an appreciation of their being. If people can raise animals humanely and still be comfortable with their decision to kill and eat meat, then who am I to judge? I couldn't do it, which is precisely why I'm a vegetarian. Does that make me weaker than those that can or does it imply I hold a deeper reverence for life?

As runner- up, Anglican Vicar Peter Owen Jones gets my vote. I value his attempts to live a simple life and the way in which he communicates this to others. It reaffirms my belief that compassion and generosity are still prevalent in the world. Perhaps marginally so, but it's inspirational to know that should you choose, you too can lead a simpler existence free of any unnecessary consumerism. Neither would I wish to dismiss the influence of those who have a more intimate connection to my life. People who have supported my vegetarianism and personal development. We all have “teachers” in this world who contribute to our path, be they vegetarian or not. They might be family members, friends, work colleagues, school teachers etc, who shape our lives and encourage us to take great strides that we would otherwise not have thought possible.

My point is this – as veggies we do need fellow role models, but we can also take inspiration from others whose beliefs differ to our own. Vegetarianism is not meant to be divisive. It is not a platform to preach to the dissenters below, nor should it be asserted as the right and only way. Veggies should be the pioneers of tolerance – to promote vegetarianism as an alternative lifestyle whilst still respecting the choices of others.