Belfast Telegraph

Vegans can't remake the world in their own image: it's up to us what we want to eat

Eggs and Bacon isn't just the name of a bay in Tasmania. It's also a very tasty breakfast, says Fionola Meredith

I know it's the silly season, but this is beyond crazy. Animal rights group Peta wants to change the name of Eggs and Bacon Bay in Tasmania's Huon Valley. Why? Because the current name might encourage people to make poor dietary choices such as, you know, eating eggs and bacon. And we can't possibly allow that.

Instead, Peta recommends that the beach be renamed Apple and Cherry Bay as a nice, wholesome and impeccably vegan tribute to the region's fruit orchards. Peta Australia says that renaming the area would "promote not only local industry but also healthy eating and kindness to animals. Considering the high levels of cholesterol and saturated fat in both eggs and bacon, the area may as well be called 'Heart Attack Bay'".

Huon Valley locals are, understandably, bemused.

"I think the world has gone mad, I can barely believe it," said deputy mayor Ian Paul. "Does any normal-thinking person really think that? To me, Eggs and Bacon Bay doesn't mean anything more than a beautiful little beach."

Renaming buildings, monuments or artefacts considered offensive is terribly fashionable right now. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam recently decided to rename historical artworks with controversial titles within its collection, stripping out words like 'negro', 'Indian' and 'dwarf'. The project was called 'Adjustment Of Colonial Terminology'.

And Yale University has established a special Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming following a fierce row over a college named after an American vice-President, John C Calhoun, who was a vocal supporter of slavery.

Like the Irish Government's Committee on Evil Literature, set up in 1926 to protect the nation's morals from renegade writers, these initiatives always sound rather Stalinist to my ears. Funny, that.

Look, I can understand wanting to rename a place in certain extreme circumstances - say, if a children's playground was named after a terrorist, or something equally mad. Crazy example, I know - where in the world would something so revoltingly absurd as that happen?

But airbrushing uncomfortable truths from history and pretending they never happened isn't generally the healthiest way to engage with the past, or to avoid making similar mistakes in the future.

Yet the super-vegans of Peta aren't even engaging at that level. Eggs and Bacon Bay is in no sense controversial, historically or otherwise. It's not even named after the tasty breakfast foodstuffs, but a lovely little wild plant called Bird's-foot-trefoil, which goes by the colloquial name of Eggs and Bacon because of the red and yellow colour of its flowers.

Of all the squawking, self-righteous zealots in the world - and God knows, there are plenty of them - militant vegans are among the most irritating.

I have no beef whatsoever with individuals who choose to go vegan and then just quietly get on with it. Their food, their bodies, their lives, and good luck to them - though, personally, I'd rather gnaw off my little finger than miss out on the bloody charms of a fine, rare steak.

No, it's the fanatics I have a problem with. The 'clean eaters', the 'wellness advocates', the ones who consider themselves purer, healthier, more morally and spiritually enlightened than everyone else.

The ones who insist that we change our filthy carnivorous ways.

The ones who brandish pictures of sad-eyed calves in our faces in the hope that such sappy emotional blackmail will curb our evil burger-lust.

The ones who, like Peta, want to actually change place names because they don't fit in with their own way of looking at the world.

One thing I will say for the plant-eating preachers, though: whether seeking to redefine geography or shame us into better behaviour, they're often good for a laugh.

This week the smug environmentalist George Monbiot wrote an article titled: 'I've converted to veganism to reduce my impacts on the living world.'

In it he describes how caring for the planet means cutting out meat, dairy and eggs.

Monbiot then goes on to admit that he takes the odd drop of milk in his tea, has an egg for breakfast once a fortnight, and eats farmed meat three or four times a year. Oh, and munching pigeons, deer, rabbits and squirrels - deemed to be agricultural pests - is fine by him too.

Right. Not actually a vegan at all then, George?

That's OK: it's your choice. Just as it's mine to tuck into free-range eggs with oak-smoked bacon, made locally from happy, healthy, free-roaming pigs, for my Sunday brunch.

Neither of us needs to feel bad.

Belfast Telegraph


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