According to an opinion poll recently published in the press, vegetarianism is on the increase. In today’s programme Michael Thomson, chef and owner of a restaurant famous for the quality of the meat it serves, and Mary Stone, TV actress and a committed vegetarian, will present their views on vegetarianism. Michael Thomson, Mary Stone, welcome to our radio show Debate, the floor is yours!
Adapted from a BBC Radio 4 Interview.
Mary: Thanks for inviting me to the programme!
Michael: Thank you! It’s a great pleasure being here.
Mary: Could I start by asking a question to Michael?
Mary: Michael, I know many people have recently become very committed vegetarians and are very anxious to convince people that it’s the right course to take. My impression is that this is because people are very sensitive to the images of slaughtered animals that appear so frequently in the media. Do you think this is the case?
Michael: Yes, of course. I don’t know what kind of beliefs could drive people into being a vegetarian but certainly seeing animals going to the slaughterhouse is disgusting.
Mary: Do you think these images harm your bussiness?
Michael: Well, obviously people who think that animals shouldn’t be killed for food would probably avoid eating at my restaurant, but maybe the images in the media will make more people consider eating fish instead of meat, which of course is vital to our diet and probably more important than meat.
Mary: As far as I know, fish consumption in people’s hom es has been dropping for many years. Do you also serve fish in your restaurant?
Michael: Yes, we have a number of fish dishes on the menu. In fact, the fish dishes we serve are becoming more and more popular, so it seems people’s choices when eating out are gradually changing… but meat dishes always sell better. Just remember that we’ve been eating meat ever since we were in the caves …
Mary: Well, I think that people are eating less meat now. Have you actually noticed in your restaurant that people eat less red meat, for example?
Michael: No, not really. I think people eat less read meat at home, but when they go to restaurants they feel the meat is going to be of superior quality and they trust it. People order more fish dishes probably because they don’t know how to cook fish at home.
Mary: Yes, but surely people are influenced by the images they see on TV, and this is going to change people’s minds, they won’t eat meat anymore because eating meat will make them think of disgusting slaughterhouses.
Michael: Maybe… but there is nothing wrong with eating meat, I think everyone’s got the right to choose, that is the main thing about diet.
Mary: Yes, but that’s precisely what we vegetarians are questioning. Where is the humanity if everyone has the right to choose to kill?
Michael: Well, animals have been bred to eat, if we had no farms there would be a serious food shortage.
Mary: Yes, but maybe you don’t need to have animals stuffed in factory farms. They are suffering. Factory farming methods have nothing to do with the way animals were bred in traditional farms a hundred years ago.
Michael: I agree with you there, most factory farmed animals live in such a tight space that they can hardly move. We need to invest more to make farms more like they used to be. This would make our food better, and healthier!
Mary: Yes, but you don’t need to eat meat. It’s not a healthy habit, and it’s causing a lot of suffering, so why not stop eating meat and invest all that money in something else, education for example!
Michael: I really think that the principles of the Vegetarian Society which was set up in Ramsgate in 1847 are fine for people who want to be vegetarians, but there is no need to force everyone to eat just vegetables. Let the choice be with the public: if they like eating meat, if they like fish, let them eat it! But, please, I ask vegetarians if you’re going to be serious about it, why eat rubbish like veggie-burgers?
Mary: Now you’re just being unfair. Can you call veggie-burgers rubbish when you’re eating meat from slaughtered animals and you’re feeding that to your children? We just don’t want to participate in a slaughter!
Michael: No, what I mean is that there are meat-eaters out there; about eighty-seven per cent of us eat meat. We have been eating meat for generations, centuries! I know there are some very famous people who have been vegetarians: Verdi, Tolstoy, Wagner, Bernard Shaw, but I don’t see why we should all become vegetarians and stop enjoying eating meat.
Mary: That is the problem, there are two antagonist views: vegetarians will not see how the enjoyment of food can go along with the kill ing of the animals, whereas many other people enjoy eating meat, but things are changing for the better I think.
Journalist: Well, this was most exciting, but I’m afraid our time is over. Thank you for taking part in our debate today.
Michael: It was a pleasure. Thank you!
Mary : Thank you!