Will’s World: For some vegetarians it’s about giving a sausage

Having a teenager living in your house is a bit like trying to second-guess the British weather – you never know what’s coming next.

We were therefore thoroughly unprepared for the recent announcement over the dinner table from our eldest daughter, and the conversation that followed.

“I’d just like to let you all know that I’m a vegetarian now,” she proclaimed to her multi-generational livestock-farming family.

After a few moments of stunned silence, the inevitable questions began. “Wow,” I replied. “Even sausages and bacon?”

See also: Meat eaters or vegetarians: Who has the better arguments?

About the author

Will Evans
Farmers Weekly Opinion writer
Will Evans farms beef cattle and arable crops across 200ha near Wrexham in North Wales in partnership with his wife and parents.
Read more articles by Will Evans

“No, they’re the exception,” she conceded. “Chicken?” the present Mrs Evans enquired knowingly. “No, I can’t give up chicken.”

“What about burgers? You love burgers,” one of her sisters asked. “Are you mad, I’m not stopping eating burgers, they’re my favourite!” she answered, now visibly irritated at the line of questioning.

“Meatballs? Spag bol? Lasagne? Are they a thing of the past too?” I persisted, with audible amusement now creeping into my voice. “No, definitely not. Look, apart from all of that I’m a vegetarian, OK?”

A few more moments of silence followed as we contemplated what this unexpected development would mean for future family mealtimes. Then our youngest piped up: “But you ate turkey for Christmas dinner…”

“Of course!” she blazed in response, before flouncing theatrically out of the room in the way that only a teenager can.

Where’s the beef?

Trust me when I say we were as confused as you are. But quite apart from the fact that apparently we’re raising the world’s worst vegetarian, it does throw up a few questions. The first of those is: does this bother me?

I spend half my life working with livestock, after all, and they’re an essential part of our family’s income and livelihood, not to mention our identity. But the answer is categorically no, as it’s probably just a phase.

I’ve got many vegetarian friends (including a few farmers), and I’ve got more important things to worry about.

Let’s face it, it could have been a lot worse; she could’ve come home with a dodgy tattoo, a degenerate boyfriend, or told me she’d decided to take after her mother’s family and become an England rugby fan.

Yes, if this is as rebellious as it gets, I’ll certainly take it.

The second question is: where did she get this idea from?

Teenagers are, after all, extremely impressionable and open to all sorts of outside influence, especially around diet, and it’s something that, as parents, we worry about a lot.

Whether it’s on social media, the mainstream press, or even in school, they’re bombarded with mixed messages.

Our girls have been told several times with certainty that cattle are destroying the planet, resulting in a great deal of confusion and a few calls with the headmaster.

We’ve generally taken the view, though, that if they have questions or concerns about these things, we’ll try to answer in a balanced way.

If we point them towards some reliable sources of information, they can make their minds up for themselves.

Grill power

The final word on this goes to daughter number two, who’s such a relentlessly enthusiastic carnivore that not only does she spend hours watching American barbecue channels on YouTube, but she also requested a 12oz rib eye steak as one of her birthday presents.

She expressed her horror and exasperation at her older sibling’s decision with a statement of sisterly love: “What a weirdo. Still, there’ll be more meat for me.”

It’d be boring if they were all the same, wouldn’t it?