Don’t laugh at the poor vegetarians who eat meat by accident

I was drunk, OK?

Once, about six years ago, I ate a chicken korma. It was an unremarkable meal. However, it was a remarkable order, as I am a vegetarian.

I ate the whole thing – indeed, I think I might have licked the plate – because I was really, really drunk, and honestly had not noticed that I was eating chunks of milky, sweetened flesh. I thought it was cauliflower, or cheese, probably. Afterwards, one of my mates pointed it out – crowing – and I cried. Then I threw up, but I think that was the two bottles of wine.

This mate had been poised to tell me for about 15 minutes. But she waited until I’d put the last mouthful of fluffy rice into my mouth, because no one likes vegetarians. People think that vegetarians are smug and superior. And on a subconscious level, sitting next to a vegetarian makes a carnivore feel cruel, and threatened. Even though vegetarians are rarely furious tub-thumpers. Indeed, vegetarians are quite placid. Except when they’re crying fat, hot tears about the fact that they’ve eaten a chicken curry.

Anyway, that friend laughed – “oh come on, it’s so funny” – and told all my other friends and now, whenever we go out for a curry they’ll quip that I’d better order and eat before I get too smashed “in case it happens again”. HA HA HA HA.

Of course, I’m not special. In fact, 37 per cent of vegetarians have eaten meat while drunk. According to the results of a survey, which asked 1789 British veggies about drunk choices, more than a third said that they have eaten meat – maybe a nugget here, a limp slice of pepperoni there – when they were having it large. 26 per cent of them said that they do it “fairly often”. And 69 per cent of us lied about it.

This survey was published in October, but it has resurfaced – presumably due to some algorithmic quirk of the internet, or as part of an insidious campaign by the global farming industry. Four separate friends sent it to me this week to remind me, again, of that time I ate meat.

Then I remembered – privately , sadly – the time I was so hungover on a plane to Switzerland that I accidentally ate a chicken sandwich because I thought that the slices of filling were cheese. I didn’t tell anyone. But I felt disheartened.

Of course, it’s very funny. Drunk people are funny; drunk people forsaking their principles in order to get their greasy fingers into a fat tub of Chicken Cottage on the night bus is really funny. It’s like when your mate says she isn’t drinking tonight and then predictably ends up chugging from a bottle like a drunk, thirsty infant; it is like when your other mate gives up smoking for Lent and you find them, paws in the figurative jam jar (your packet of cigs).

But everyone attends those slip-ups with sympathy, or good-natured ribbing, or a message to the group WhatsApp (“thank God you gave up on that plan!”, followed by a picture of the culprit looking cute and intoxicated, all forgiven). On the other hand, the follies of the poor, confused vegetarian are treated with waspish, merciless criticism. Perhaps that comment was not supposed to sound so sour, so sharp – but something tells me that on some level you meant it.

Our martyrdom is all in your heads: this is your inferiority complex, not our superiority one. And surely by getting messy with a kebab, we have proved – decisively – that we are as human and fallible as you are?

Give peace a chance – there’s enough cheap burger meat to go round. We only want it a third of the time.