THERE’S enough fear and loathing to go around at the moment, so we may as well add farce to the general tragedy. This week, the pollster OnePoll declared (2000 people phoned and emailed!) that haggis was Britain’s most hated food.

The sponsor of the poll was a Japanese food brand, with sushi and sashimi being the second and third most hated on the list. So this might be one of those “revulsion gets you noticed” PR strategies.

Still, there it sits – indeed, there we sit – in the lead photo. Tartan napkin; out-of-focus whisky at the back; two mounds of peppery, fluffy orange-and-white on the plate.

And in between, the monstrous brown mess itself. Sometimes bursting from its veiny carapace, smeared knife laid to one side. Steam arises from the cut, obscenely. Cue accordion stab.

One could have some mild indy mischief here. On my researches over the last decade of “UK’s top ten most hated food” lists – there’s about one poll commissioned every two years, promotionally driven – haggis hasn’t even figured in any of them, let alone been anywhere near the top.

Cue second accordion stab (A7 to D minor): the break-up of Britain accelerates, releasing ghouls and phantoms! But to be fair, though escargot and oysters (insects and phlegm-like gloop, c’mon) often do top the list, right behind them are some UK staples (tripe, liver, sprouts, fish) which generations of denizens of these islands have always hated.

Maybe it’s some combination of their taste, and the parental injunction that you must eat them “to make you strong”. Mu-uum!

But here’s a confession: I only started to eat haggis when I became a political Scots-Nat. It never figured in our family diet (the Italo-Scozzese frittata was more our kind of Saturday-night mess).

And a bit like my first gulp of whisky – what horrors have seized my nose and throat! – my first inhalation of a Burns Supper haggis went straight to the nausea spot. The political operative who whispered in my ear about “chopped-up sheep lungs” did not help.

How do I address the haggis now, as a worldly mensch (no arguing at the back there) in my late fifties? With a delight in its history, national and global. Also, with a complex accommodation of what it does to my senses. Yet with a growing awareness that the very act of eating a haggis may not, in truth, bend with the moral arc of history.

The last bit first – and a nice irony: there’s more haggis regularly in my life now than there’s ever been. But it’s MacSween’s finest vegetarian/vegan version, which has become a microwaved staple of the vegan household I mostly live in.

After his first few mouthfuls, the young tyro leading the ethical charge looked quizzically at me and asked: “Are you sure I can eat this?” I’m now a regular vegan cook, and the one thing I notice is how much more attentive I have to be to spices, flavourings, condiments, to make (for example) a cauliflower “steak” effective.

So here’s a lovely quirk of gastronomic history. The spices deployed in haggis are an attempt to improve the experience of the inferior meats and perishable offal that it uses. Yet the same spices – nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, dried coriander – make the grains, nuts and vegetables which replace the meat really sing and dance.

Up to 40% of sales, nationally and globally, are now double-v haggis (I’d suggest “vaggis”, if I didn’t fear the national collective chasing me into the North Sea). But that’s not to say that haggis has lost its Cthulhu-like reputation among foodstuffs: the veritable opening up of the beast.

You may have missed it, but on the most recent Burns Night there was a UK Gov promotion, led by the indigestible Liz Truss MP, celebrating the opening of US markets to the mighty v-haggis (The sheep lungs in the original, somewhat amazingly, hasn’t passed muster with the US Department of Agriculture since 1971).

Nice event. One problem: the word haggis was diplomatically erased by MacSween’s, in favour of this branding… “Scottish Veggie Crumble”. Yes, you read that right. Cue the third (and maybe not final) accordion stab: the Atlantic Imperium will be after our “whisky” next!

But I’m more interested in the aversion that’s revealed, when you hide the term “haggis” behind “crumble”. Somewhat like the Loch Ness Monster, or Begbie in Trainspotting, the haggis is a signifier of Scottish excess that the world loves/hates to gaze upon, in an entranced horror. And maybe we like to brandish it, too. It’s either a soft-power curse, or a resource: I’m not sure.

There’s a great clip that’s gone viral on social media in the last few weeks. The late (and meat-loving) American cook Anthony Bourdain settles himself down in the University Cafe, in Glasgow’s Byres Road. There he contemplates his haggis supper, with a side of cheese-melted and curry-sauced chips.

Bourdain describes haggis as “my personal favourite ... sinister sheep parts, here in tube form!”. As he begins to dig into the carnage before him, the great chef mutters: “I’m pretty sure God is against this.”

She may well be. My own encounter with macerated sentients comes guiltily, early in the morning, at the fag end of a longer-than-usual stretch of music touring, usually in some non-metropolitan part of Scotland. As despair encroaches, the slice sausage is passed over, for an even more elemental, dangerous mixture.

To protect my conscience, I usually turn my anthropological mode on. This part of Scottish cuisine is part of a great continuity in human culinary history. And to be clear, the first recipe for “hagese” can be found in the verse cookbook Liber Cure Cocorum, dating from around 1430 in Lancashire, north west England.

Alan Davidson, the doyen of food scholars, tracked haggis-like recipes back to the Roman empire. They were “born of necessity”, Davidson writes, “as a way to utilize the least expensive cuts of meat and the innards as well”. Another food writer, Clarissa Dickson, suggests that its etymology points to maybe a Viking introduction, from the Old Norse term haggw (to chop up).

And boiling up non-muscle meat in a bag made from an intestinal membrane is widespread. It can be found in the Czech Republic (jitrnice), Romania (toba), France (andouillette) – indeed, in many other later followers of the global agrarian revolution of 10,000 years ago.

In these ways I console myself, as the haggis’s earthiness descends into me, settling me down before the touring van leaves. But the anthropological excuse is beginning to flicker badly.

My basic setting is omnivore. But I do accept my vegan family’s environmental case (if not yet the case for sentience. I find it hard to imagine a natural ecosystem that didn’t rely, to some degree, on the predatory extinguishing of sentience).

A mass adoption of a plant-based, meat-free, locally sourced diet would be an enormous contribution to reductions in global warming, in terms of animal methane and transportation costs. Just as demonstrably, it would bring a massive improvement in public health outcomes too.

What’s stopping us? Several millennia of food tradition and practice. Insufficient understanding (and communication) of the urgency of our climate crisis. Complacent, locked-in commercial imperatives. Our unwillingness to lock our evolved drive to eat meat back down where it belongs, in the primal past. The usual crooked timber of humanity.

But in a tiny wee way, we should hail the vaggis (OK, I’m now running), as a real chieftain of the pudding phenotype. It’s proof that we can creatively satisfy our ancient impulses and tendencies, while responding to the biospheric damage that our basic modernity has wreaked.

We’ll have to make many thousands of these lifestyle changes in the coming years. Let’s value it when it’s relatively easy to do.

And not only easy, but intensely and irreversibly identified as Scottish. Try and hate that, world!