For a bit of context, I'll start with a historical fact: I'm a meat lover. I don't really know when & how it started but as far as I can remember, meat - and especially red meat; cooked rare obviously - has always been my ultimate favorite meal. I mean it. Even as a kid, if I had a choice between candies / ice creams / cakes / chocolate mousse [you name it] and a plate with a piece of beef cooked rare and some pasta.. phew! the choice was very easy: gimme the damn plate! And still today, if I'm in a restaurant with a great 'steak tartare' [raw meat] it's really hard for me not to order it right away.
Photo by Liuda Brogiene
I remember few times in some restaurants well-known for serving big portion of meat, I was only 7 or 8 y/o and I always asked what was the record of the biggest piece of beef eaten by someone - few kg always - and asked to be served this exact portion. Now that I think about this, I don't even know where that comes from. Sure, my grand-ma loved red meat as well and was always stoked to cook some but I don't have the feeling she ate more of this than anyone else in France actually. My mum then wasn't a big meat eater. There is something in our french culture though. I mean, a good meal - in the traditional sense; when you're invited somewhere or in the restaurant - implies some meat most of the time. I tried few times in the past, go serve something to people with no meat at all in the plate, most of them would look at you in surprise and asked if you haven't forgotten anything.
Then, growing up, there has been a first shift: I wanted to eat 'very good' meat only. Like the one you'd find only in the local butcher shop and not the one you could buy at the supermarket. Sure it cost way more but I told myself the story that I loved meat so much I didn't care about the price and I was consequently totally ready to decrease my consumption of other stuff [I didn't smoke, I'd buy some glasses of Pastis in the bar - pretty cheap alcohol usually in local french bars - instead of fancy cocktails etc.].
Then 2 things happened: I moved to Singapore when I was still in my early twenties and I started to watch few documentaries about the whole meat industry. The latter made me deeply uncomfortable & questionned my own impact in that supply chain. The former changed my meat consumption entirely. While I still consider Singapore as one of the best place in the world for me in terms of cuisine, I don't remember it as especially good in terms of red meat. It was more about chicken, pork, fish, seafood etc.
Ultimately I read the book Eating Animals from Jonathan Safran Foer and this has been the 'coup de grace'. From then on, I committed to become a vegetarian. I don't remember which year it was exactly but I'd say sometime around 2012 / 2013. Since then... arrrrgh such an up & down journey. I experienced some periods of few months without eating meat at all [record was probably while in Berlin; something like 8 or 9 months total], and then, I landed in France for few days or weeks visiting family, ate a good tartare and - even though I tried intentionnally to keep my consumption as low as possible - went on eating meat for another 6 months. One thing I found hard back then was the very low choice of vegeterian options in french restaurants for instance [on the opposite side, being a vegeterian in Berlin was easy, so much yummy choices everywhere - even in a burger restaurant]. Like you get the menu and the only option is some type of salad while you could order a cheeseburger... for someone like me, it was literally impossible to pick up the salad [oh, yep, one thing to consider: the salad costs the same price!]. Obviously it has changed a bit.
I don't try to find me any excuse actually. Now that I write this, I think I just approached the whole thing the wrong way. I didn't want to be seen as a 'troublemaker' as well when I was invited somewhere. My mum always taught us that, as guests, you just eat politely everything you got served. Period. So I felt uncomfortable telling people, friends, even my family 'hey I changed my diet, no more meat for me, oh you cooked too much beef, well, too bad, I won't eat any of it anyway'. In retrospect, maybe I should have. I don't know. I think I have a deep problem with orthodoxy in general. Life should be flexible and I feel that the more orthodox you'd be, the more judgmental you might become and at the end, others would reject even more your beliefs. It's weird when I think more about it. Years later, I know some people still felt angry that no meat has been served at a specific family dinner because of us [my other half shared the experiment]. Or some stories I got from people who offered a vegetarian meal during their own wedding and people were mad it wasn't a 'proper special-meal'... hmmm at what point everyone just loves to fight and becomes so close-minded anyway? I digress.
I'm a bit older now [yep, harsh reality]. I might be a bit wiser too [I hope]. Ultimately I know myself more. I know how I react to challenges, new habits, change in general; I know how finding my own pace is the most important thing; I understood how discipline and rountine / rituals are keys [and not bad words to avoid only]. So when I started to try the app No Meat Today - and got lucky enough to talk to the founder & discovered his own story - it became a no-brainer. The goal of the app is dead simple: track your meat consumption. I set up a daily reminder at 9pm to input if yes or no I ate meat this day.
Few months later. Here's my status.
And since the beginning of this year, I tend to eat meat once a week only. So if we take the month of June as an example [like on the screenshot above], 3 meals a day x 30 days = 90 meals. 4 meals with meat out of 90 meals means a bit less than 5%. So I started to say 'yep I'm 95% vegetarian'.
In july so far, I've eaten meat only twice so I might be on track to almost 98% hehe.
And you know what - yep you can guess - I feel freaking good. I found out that being 95% [or 98% sometimes] vegetarian was my perfect equilibrium. I know that I can go the long way at this pace. It resonates deep down. I feel complete, in harmony with who I am and what I believe in. I even went hunting a year ago to see for myself what it meant to kill an animal to eat. That experience has been very interesting, in a lot of different ways - that's worth another post by itself.
Anyway, I know some hardcore vegan would hate me; some radicals would make fun of me or just debate if the formula itself 'XX% vegetarian' would mean anything at all. The thing is: I don't care. I know that I succeeded to decrease my meat consumption dramatically. After all, if the whole world turns 90%+ vegetarian tomorrow, the impact would be pretty huge right away. And guess what: if more people would introduce the change this way, it would sound way easier, almost sexier right away for more people. More importantly in my case, I found a pace I'm able to follow & commit in the very long-term. And that's where the biggest impact lies at the end.
95 / 98% vegetarian over the next 60 years will be so much more impactful, powerful and meaningful for me than a short period of 6 / 9 months as a vegan and then... nothing.