27 April 2022

Is it OK to request meat as a 'dietary requirement' at an event?

| Zoya Patel
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The Meat & Wine Co

If it’s polite to accommodate vegans, shouldn’t the same courtesy be extended to carnivores? Photo: Steven Woodburn.

Let me pose a hypothetical.

You’re attending the wedding of a close friend. This friend is vegan (or vegetarian, either can work), and their wedding is going to be an entirely meat-free affair. They ask for ‘dietaries’ ahead of the event (probably meaning allergies or gluten-free requests). Is it acceptable to request meat as a dietary inclusion?

It’s an interesting conundrum and one I’m pondering after having a recent discussion with a friend who can’t think of anything worse than eating an entirely vegetarian meal. This friend is a fussy eater and struggles to find anything on a menu he’s likely to enjoy under most circumstances.

Having been raised on a very standard meat-and-three-veg diet, he isn’t particularly adventurous. He’s more likely to eat a bowl of plain rice than take a stab at an eggplant curry. So attending entirely vegetarian/vegan events isn’t enjoyable for him. Now, he’s never actually requested meat in a situation like this. He’s happy to poke some quinoa around his plate and then head into KFC on his way home.

But it’s an interesting question.

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Given that we’re so willing to accommodate other dietary requests, should the desire to have some form of animal-based protein in a meal be equally supported? Putting preference to one side, some people have to eat restricted diets that have a significant focus on red meat or low carbs, and I have friends who, for the purpose of significant medical procedures, have to eat very specific meals for weeks at a time. So there are feasibly other reasons why meat might need to be on a plate.

In asking this question, I should disclose that I’ve been a vegetarian for 18 years and would prefer not to serve meat at any potential wedding I ever have (though the thought of me willingly heading down the aisle is probably about as likely as me chowing down a steak tonight). However, if someone I love requested meat in their meal, I wouldn’t make a fuss about it, and realistically, I probably would just have multiple options available in the interest of people having an uncomplicated good time.

Some of my more militant vegetarian or vegan friends would be appalled at that concession but would equally expect to be provided vegetarian or vegan meals at any events they attend.

So where do we draw the line when it comes to reasonable dietary requests? Is meat-eating a dietary lifestyle choice, or should people just suck it up and forego their chicken/lamb option in favour of a nicely cooked pumpkin tagine for a special occasion?

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Haha, the 50 cent question. As an Asian Australian, it would be rude and abhorrent to request meat at a dinner or function which is vegetarian . However as a determined omnivore who loves seafood, lamb and pork, I often feel hard done by vegetarian and vegan hosts who don’t provide for us omnivores whereas we have to take their preferences into account! It is unfair that it works this way and I am aware of many a family dinner which has been disrupted by the vegan/vegetarian needs of some family members. I have now decided to ignore such requests and they will have to eat what they get!

Clever Interrobang9:31 pm 28 Apr 22

I find the lack of maturity and introspection from both the substance of this article and the majority of the comments to be unfortunate.

I probably wouldn’t have dinner with most of you, and not just because I choose to follow a vegan diet…

“Dietary Requirements” should be limited to genuine health issues – diabetes, gluten or lactose allergies or intolerances, allergies to
peanut etc.

I’m prepared to tolerate vegetarians out of politeness.
Vegans are unreasonable vegetarians.

I know someone who will only eat “smoked salmon”.

So no. “Meat” is not a “Dietary Requirement”, nor is “smoked salmon” and nor is “Vegan”.

It is the inviter’s day so I suggest the invitee/snowflake eats before they attend and have some cake while they are there. I used to travel through Queensland (in particular the Gulf country) for work (1990s) and my work colleague was vegetarian. Very difficult to get something not meat-based at the outback pubs/clubs. Usually soggy (and probably frozen) vegetables (corn, carrots, peas, chips) from a bain marie while I ate yet another steak/chop/chicken/dead animal. I really felt bad for his circumstances. He started to carry his veggie supplies and cook/microwave them when he could. People should adapt to situations or not attend at all.

Clever Interrobang9:25 pm 28 Apr 22

It’s a lot easier now than it was in the 90s.

Clever Interrobang, I agree. Thankfully things have changed. Just pointing out that people can adapt to unfavourable circumstances. I welcome the new choices and as I have gotten older eat far more vegetables and fruit than animal protein. The attendee should adapt their behaviour and try something new.

Really? It’s the wedding of a close friend, their special day, and someone can’t hold their nose for one meal so as not to cause unnecessary ructions? If I received a requirement like that it would be last invite I’d be sending to them. Are we so precious that our every whim has to be catered for at all occasions? If being in the presence of vegans is so bothersome they can always not go.

You might as well send in a dietary “requirement” that you need foie gras, or not just meat but eye fillet prepared by druids under a full moon.

So where can I get “eye fillet prepared by druids under a full moon”? Bet it is more than the $75 per kilo mark. Glad I have cut back significantly on my meat protein intake (who can afford it?) at my daughter’s insistence. Veggies are great when cooked properly and in a variety of ways. Some people should experiment more. Recipe for the pumpkin tagine?

“… a close friend. This friend is vegan”
That’s your problem right there – those two phrases are mutually exclusive.

“Really? It’s the wedding of a close friend, their special day, and someone can’t hold their nose for one meal so as not to cause unnecessary ructions?”
Ha ha ha – try expecting a vegan to hold their nose (and their tongue ie. words) for one meal so as not to cause unnecessary ructions!! I’m among a few who have observed that vegans think they exist solely to cause unnecessary ructions.

Maybe this guy should use this as an opportunity to ditch the KFC and try some veggies for once.

Yes, of course – if you are an obligate carnivore. However, it’s not OK to state a dietary preference as so many people seem to do these days, instead of limiting such requests to allergies.

How is being a “vegetarian” or a “carnivore” not simply a dietary preference?

Obligate carivoures must eat meat to obtain essential nutrients that they can’t get any other way. The most familiar example is cats, for which a vegetarian diet is really not a good idea. I have no idea if some people are, or can realistically claim to be, obligate carnivores but it woudn’t surprise me in this day and age of people claming to be all manner of things.

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