The sigh was so withering it practically dimmed the lights. “Oh Mark,” – a notoriously doleful voice dipped even deeper in disappointment – “you’re an intelligent man, you know what they do to chickens…”
There are serial cannibal killers facing down juries with less shame in their hearts than I felt the day I told Morrissey – to his face – that I was a carnivore. The bloke who chuffed away five lines of cocaine and masturbated in a pub beer garden for 45 minutes would have been led away with his head held higher. For ten years I’d dated girls who were vegetarian, often because of Morrissey, and now here I was, in a hotel room in Rome circa 2006 suddenly awash with the ghost scent of abattoir entrails, getting a lifetime’s worth of meat guilt from the horse’s mouth. Or, rather, the artichoke’s sprout.
Yes, I knew what they did to chickens. Stuff I wouldn’t want it done to Katie Hopkins, or whoever came up with that shark song. And chickens aren’t even the cute ones. How could I look a 20-foot cow in the kneecap and feel okay with my life choices? Or a beautiful French horse? So why wasn’t I vegetarian? Because I was weak, selfish and callous, my outspoken liberalism a paper mask over some bone-gnawing inner Ted Nugent. That moment was like all of my secret shames had come to life, crowding around my snivelling form, crowing and mocking in a mob of sheer humiliation. Very much like I expect people feel when they post a picture of themselves with their foot on the corpse of a friendly, much-loved lion they’ve just shot from an armoured vehicle 300 feet away, or say anything at all about gender on Twitter.
There were other issues stopping me converting of course – judging by the most high-profile veggie rock stars, unmentioned side-effects included extreme right-wing opinions and involuntary bouts of reggae patois. But maybe the time has finally come to embrace a lifetime of meat-free Mondays. I can do it. Right now. Please. Experts insist that global veganism is the only way to avert climate catastrophe, and I certainly see it as my human duty to drastically alter my life in order to play a miniscule part in a gargantuan and likely impossible global lifestyle shift, even though my entire contribution could be rendered worthless a thousand times over by a single middle manager at Nissan scribbling ‘Tuesday, 3pm: fudge emissions test’ into their weekly schedule, or ExxonMobil giving Donald Trump a lollipop with his face on.
And of course, there’s the biggest incentive of all – not being Piers Morgan. If there’s one lesson to live your life by, it’s not to be an utter Piers Morgan to people, to exist as un-Piers Morganishly as you can. So if Piers Morgan – a testosterone-blasted hunk of bison-throttling alpha male man-meat if ever I saw one – is up in arms over the concept of a vegan sausage roll for no other reason than he shares a PR company with Greggs, I’m bloody well having one. And so is the child in my papoose.
All I need now is some high-profile vegan role models to spur me on past Veganuary into Tofubruary, Starch and Haypril. Jay-Z and Beyonce have thrown their weight behind the cause by challenging their fans to go vegan “to stand up for the health of the planet”. And if they can do it, considering the filthy looks they’ll get for turning down the umpteenth bowl of infant blood at all their Illuminati cookouts, then surely I can get over the whole pineapple-on-pizza debate by ditching the whole ‘pizza’ part of that thorny hot potato. Mmmmm, thorny hot potato…
Otherwise, it’s slim pickings, vegan pop star-wise, but the current crop of alt-metal screamers are surprisingly cheese-averse – Bring Me The Horizon, Against Me!, Fall Out Boy and AFI all have members proving that you can take the ‘meat’ out of ‘metalhead’ and still sound as though you’re neck deep in a bull carcass. Rob Zombie, meanwhile, would make a shit actual zombie since, at most, he might be able to feast on your fingernails, and only then after he’s checked that you haven’t used them to pick up a roasting fork, stroke a puppy or scratch your arse in the past three months. And there’s Blink-182, but if I took those guys as role models the only thing I’d be eating all day is your mom.
Over in the pop sphere, the hugely influential trio of Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus and Ellie Goulding are perhaps the only vegans in the world that need to mention it more. Poppy is vegan too, living on a strict diet of code and bot-feed. True, there are a fair few rappers, from Wu Tangers to grime artists, who’ve swapped popping caps in po-po for popping to Whole Foods for a chili-infused avocado hummus, but the main problem in all of this is the overwhelming spectre of Moby. Moby is to musical veganism what the Cloverfield monster would be to an Old Vic Chekov revival: you can’t exactly block him out.
The vegan cause needs a credible antidote. I propose that all of music’s coolest vegans – Alison Mosshart, Jeff Mangum, Jared Followill, Nick Zinner and Jonny Marr, I’m looking at you – form a band called Three Meal Quinoa and set about giving veganism a new bunch of figureheads. And as for you lot, now Gregg’s have finally got your ethical service station sustenance sorted at last, come join the rock’n’root-veg revolution. Here’s a carrot. Here’s another one. Here’s a third. Now form a band.