With the environmental crisis upon us, many people have been rethinking the way they eat meat. How exactly are meat and the environment related? And what would happen if we reduced our meat intake, or stopped it all together? If you want to say goodbye to burgers, ribs, wings and hotdogs, you have come to the right place. Today, 5% of the world’s population is vegetarian, but…
…Why exactly go vegetarian?
There are many obvious health reasons to stop eating meat: overconsuming meat can make you more likely to have cancer, diabetes, weight problems, or high blood pressure for example. Not only that, but livestock farming is responsible for epizootic diseases, (such as avian or swine flu). The massive use of antibiotics on livestock also contributes to resistant bacteria; and not eating livestock is a way to avoid the hormones animals are fed. There are also:
Our production of meat has boomed considerably: we now produce four times more meat than 50 years ago! Yet a meat-free lifestyle would lead to a cleaner planet. Indeed, human activity of meat production is one of the biggest contributors to climate change: it is responsible for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions. Not eating meat would be a huge change for the planet, by reducing massive greenhouse emissions. Beef especially produces five times more gas emissions than any other meat. Livestock consumes more water than any other industry: 1 kg of beef requires 15,000 liters of water before it reaches your plate. The meat industry is thereby also one of the largest causes of water pollution.
Moreover, 700 million tons of food are consumed by livestock: not eating meat would possibly end world hunger. Today, there are enough plant-based foods to end world hunger, yet the vast majority of these crops goes instead towards feeding livestock as explained in this article.
All of this is without mentioning the ethical reasons to cease eating meat: every year around 50 billion animals are killed for human consumption. They are kept in inhumane circumstances (tiny filthy cages; entirely in the dark; on top of each other for instance), fed food packed with pesticides and/or hormones, and slaughtered in much the same way. If you believe in animal rights, you might want to boycott the meat industry.
For more information on this we also recommend watching the documentary Cowspiracy(2014) by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn.
Tips for becoming vegetarian
There are different ways to stop eating meat, depending on your personal preference: quitting cold turkey or step by step. If you choose to stop step by step you can start out by cutting out red meat, then white meat, then fish. You can also try setting one or a couple of meatless days a week, or only eating meat when you go to the restaurant, for example.
When eating make sure you replace the meat you would usually incorporate in your meal. If you just cook your usual recipes and leave out the meat, chances are you will be hungry very quickly, and dissatisfied with your food. To avoid being disappointed, add things like lentils, soybeans, green beans, tofu, even veggie chicken nuggets: get creative!
Try not to eat the same thing again and again: becoming vegetarian has to feel like a pleasure, not a punishment or a burden. You have to love making your food and eat varied foods! A vegetarian diet can be very healthy, that is if you pay attention to giving your body the right nutriments such as vitamins and minerals. It is also important not to forget about your protein intake, possibly taking supplements like B12 to stay healthy. Ask your doctor for recommendations or read up on how to make the transition from a meat to a meat free diet.
Some recipe ideas
To have fun cooking and keep learning new, exciting recipes, you can buy a cookbook, or look up recipes online. Many youtubers share their weekly meals as vegetarians or vegans.
One last tip: if you become vegetarian, do not try to impose your point of view on others, do not insult your meat eating friends, or shame them for their habits. Shaming those around you will probably in no way convince them to change how they eat. You can try to explain calmly why you have chosen for yourself to become vegetarian. Maybe this will help start a conversation and make them see things in a different light, and try to eat less meat themselves.
Another video on the topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pPwwU1N9hM
Article by Inès Huet