Good evening fruity friends! How about a progress update? Go on then.
To put it vaguely, things seem to be coming together. Although I’ve had my fair share of hindrances for this major project, I am happy (ecstatic) to confirm that I have found a very suitable final interviewee in the shape of Community Dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetics Association, Chloe Miles. Her input will give the documentary the balance it needs to achieve journalistic credibility. What’s so convenient about Chloe is that she’s based in Bournemouth – so I won’t pretend I’m not a little relieved that I won’t be traveling miles to catch up with her. This Tuesday, I’ll be picking her brains about all things fruit-related to ascertain whether there is any truth in the health claims made by fruitarians, or whether mainstream nutritional advice is as good as we’re led to believe – so keep your eyes peeled for the low-down on our interview.
Now that things are in full motion and very much falling into place, it seems like the right time to tell you a little bit more about me and why I became interested in fruitarianism for my project. Unless you know me well enough, you may even be wondering whether, I, wee Laura Bernadette McKenna, am a fruitarian myself.
Let me begin this long and excruciating post by saying that I am not, and probably never will be a fruitarian. I say probably, only because I was once so convinced that I’d never be vegetarian – and just look at me now, who can even recognise me (certainly not myself). However, when trying to think of an idea for this project, I was drawn to subjects that I would want to watch documentaries about, where I could really learn about weird and wonderful aspects of the world, and more often than not they revolve around themes such as food, nutrition and the environment.
Six months ago, I began my journey to live a more ethical and sustainable lifestyle by becoming vegetarian. Before you ask, no I DO NOT eat fish (you lot can’t quite grasp that one can you?) Like most meat-eaters I reeled off the same old phrases: ‘oh but I need to eat meat, because it gives us protein’, or ‘but we’re designed to eat meat’ and especially ‘I just couldn’t live without it’. My vegetarian friends would often say things like ‘well if you can’t bear to watch an animal be slaughtered, how can you eat one?’ and I would gloatingly say that because I could and would watch this process, it entitled me to continue to eat meat, which seems like a bizarre justification now. If anything, I should have been more concerned that I was so desensitised to such violent images.
I’m not sure at what point my ideology began to change. Certainly in my first year of university was when I started thinking about meat-eating differently, and I am actually a bit embarrassed to admit that much of the initial motivation for reducing my meat intake revolved around shallow endeavours to spend less money and improve my health. However, it was perhaps surrounding myself with people who were already vegetarian that definitely made me consider the broader impacts of animal agriculture, and I soon realised that meat-eating was not a necessity to human survival. Obviously, I already knew this – many of my friends are vegetarian and perfectly healthy – but I could no longer justify it as such.
This, coupled with MANY MANY hours of documentary-watching and internet-trawling reiterated this point. Yet for a good six months I still wasn’t ready to make the transition. I knew that eating meat was unnecessary, and that research suggested it could be quite detrimental to our health, but because I had long disassociated meat and animals as the same thing, it was actually quite hard for me to *forgive me* care about animal welfare.
As I said before, I watched endless documentaries on nutrition, vegetarian and vegan diets, as well as alternative medicine. A few months before I became vegetarian, when I knew I should stop eating meat, but still hadn’t quite had that conscience push that I so desperately needed, I decided to force myself to watch documentaries like Vegucated and Food Inc, which contain some of the more unbelievable and unbearable footage of the meat and dairy industries. It was at that point that my worldview really began to change.
That said, the main motivator for my personal vegetarianism, first and foremost, was environmentalism. For me, I had disassociated meat with animals my whole life, and although I considered myself an animal-lover even then, I, at the brink of my vegetarianism, cared – or at least identified – more with human life. I couldn’t believe some of the things I had started to learn about animal agriculture: its major role in deforestation and the degredation of the earth, as well as how many litres of water meat eaters consume through their food in comparison to vegetarians (as much as 15,000 litres of water is needed to produce just one kilo of beef, for example) just to name a few key concerns.
If I wouldn’t give up meat for my own benefit – be it for health or financial reasons – or for animals, I couldn’t continue to eat meat at the detriment to humanity, and future generations.
All fundamentalism aside, it has been in my research since becoming vegetarian that I have developed a new fascination for restrictive diets – bear in mind that I say fascination for, and not desire to follow, necessarily. In the vegetarian/vegan community, there are all kinds of variants – some that I think are worth considering; others that I am not convinced about. At this point, and since the start of this project, I should make it clear that I have been considering transitioning to a vegan diet for a combination of animal welfare and health reasons. However, beyond ethical veganism, there are even more restrictive variants including raw veganism, the 801010 diet, raw ’til 4, and the more extreme – like fruitarianism. It led me to start wondering whether restrictive diets can ever go too far. Can it become obsessive? Is there any real point in the grand scheme of things? At what point do we become so concerned with extending the lengths of our lives, that we forget to live?
And more obviously, fruitarianism seemed like a bizarre concept to me. I love finding out more about things that go against the grain of mainstream thinking, and fruitarianism seemed like a stellar example, although I had significant doubts. Would I find that it had some convincing arguments? I had once thought vegetarianism a very alien concept, and if you had told me three years ago that I would be considering veganism, I would have laughed. So much. So in my documentary, I wanted to explore the reasoning behind fruitarianism, or maybe the lack of.
One thing that I should probably address at this point, is the issue of impartiality. You may be thinking that my own vegetarianism may lead me to portray fruitarianism favourably without due impartiality. In journalism practice, we are taught that notions like impartiality and objectivity are the beacons of professionalism within the field – and in many respects, I think following these principles works well for many methods of journalistic story-telling. Yet, with this project, I am not merely looking to report the facts, or compile a news report, to which this application is more suited. Instead, this documentary aims to be an explorative character-driven piece of journalism, that upholds ideals such as balance before drawing conclusions, as opposed to remaining objective throughout. Sure, by being vegetarian, I might be more open-minded to some of the arguments put by the fruitarian community, but I like to think that the critical thinking I have developed as a direct result of my journalism training would enable me to approach this topic more skeptically. In my next post, I will discuss the relevance of my own experience with restrictive diets – and how I feel this will actually aid my story-telling.
It’s also worth mentioning that based on my target audience and chosen TV strand, it will soon become clear as to why I have adopted such a personal means to divulge my investigation – both within the documentary itself, and the writing style I use on my blog and social media.
I hope that gives a bit of a flavour for where the idea came from. Long story short, I stopped eating meat, and now I want to find out more about those who have restricted their diet to the point where few dietary options are available to them. Capiche?