I was at my local supermarket recently buying much needed groceries to stack my fridge. It was my first shop in over a month – I'd been in India and Nepal on holiday. As I laid out my bounty of fruit and vegetables, the shop assistant rolled her eyes at the thought of having to weigh and price so many different fresh-produce items. I politely apologised and explained it was my first big shop since leaving the country. She asked me about my holiday and if I enjoyed India. I replied by saying I had an amazing trip yet it felt strange being back and not seeing any cows walking freely on the roads and through traffic. Her response: "Oh, you can see them in here!"
It was one thing to groan about weighing my fruit and veggies, but this last comment was a snide side-swipe for this vegetarian. I laughed dryly because I was unsure how to respond. Yet, her comment made me start to think about India and Australia, and the pivotal differences in these two countries' meat-eating ways. India is predominantly Hindu so beef is out of the question. Many Australians, on the other hand, love a good steak and grill tonnes of it on their barbecues every year. India's restaurants are visibly marked either "Veg" or "Non-Veg" or both. Here, a meat-toting restaurateur is somewhat allergic to the 'V' word so a lonely vegetarian option on a menu tends to be little more than a token gesture. If I'm lucky to find a 'V' option against a tempting dish, I later discover that the meal is usually doused in parmesan cheese or cream.
Parallel to these misconceptions and a lack of 'V' on menus, Australia is still battling scathing public debates surrounding live meat exporting, factory farming and animal rights. Thankfully, there is a healthy rise in Australian vegetarian and vegan restaurants, cafés and grocery stores, and the rate is increasing.
While I don't think Australia will ever reach a point of allowing its cow population to wander the streets, a healthy growth in vegetarian and vegan commercial options is a good indication that we're heading in a more conscious and 'V'-friendly direction.