Why do people become vegetarian. As someone who was a vegetarian for over twenty years before choosing to eat fish on health grounds for the last ten, I have spent a considerable amount of time explaining and justifying my decision not to eat meat. I became a vegetarian after watching a scary documentary at college about the processing and production of meat products in the UK, and after that, I felt there was no longer any case to continue eating meat. It is my decision not to eat meat, but is it possible for there be a middle-ground in the debate as there now is in the political arena? One answer might be to concentrate the debate around the notion of 'meatless' rather than 'meat-free'? After all we are being told repeatedly by government and world health organisations that if we cut down on the amount of meat that we eat it would be good for our health and good for the planet.
It started me thinking about other occasions when our government has needed to persuade us to eat less meat. During the Second World War people had no choice but to cut back on meat, as it was rationed along with many other foodstuffs derived from animals. The wartime government gave basic nutritional advice and suggested substitutes for meat as well as introducing the 'Dig For Victory' campaign which sought to instil ideas of self-sufficiency, good health and economy by encouraging people to grow vegetables.
|'Dig For Victory' poster, Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries, 1939-1945. Image source: Design Council and the Design Archives, University of Brighton|
Here is an example of a publication that came out during the First World War that we have at MoDA, Meatless Menus - for lunch, dinner and supper. The book features 300 recipes drawn up by Alfred Arm, Chef de cuisine at North British Hotel in Edinburgh, and then revised by AP Laurie to 'ensure sufficiency of nourishment for each'.
|Meatless Menus: For Lunch, Dinner and Supper,by Alfred Arm & edited by AP Laurie, 1917, Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (CH/5/5/27)|
The menus also include salt fish and salt herrings, 'a source of food much neglected in the past' according to Laurie. By including fish, Laurie serves up a definition of 'meat-less' that differs from that of the Vegetarian Society but one that I, as I have noted above, happen to share.
|Page 9, Meatless Menus: For Lunch, Dinner and Supper,by Alfred Arm & edited by AP Laurie, 1917, Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (CH/5/5/27)|
Laurie concludes with a note of reassurance that ' the aim of the book was not to replace the ordinary cookbook, as recipes are too few, and nor is it proposed to abolish meat from the table. It is 'merely to introduce to the housewife to the many new possibilities in the way of meatless meals and meatless cookery'.
Do Laurie's arguments for changing the nation's wartime diet to a meatless one, resonate at all with the current period of austerity and the ensuing financial hardship felt by many UK families? Is there any evidence that families are choosing meat free in preference to meat, and if so, are they doing it to both save money and improve the health of family members?
If you have a view on any of the issues raised in this post then please let us know what you think.
In the meantime if you are interested in seeing more of our book collection please go to our website by clicking here.