The decision to eat meat or not is an age old one, but it seems like now more than ever, previous meat lovers are switching their beloved rump steak and chicken wings for something far greener. The reason for the switch can’t be accounted for by one thing alone, rather there seems to be a whole host of reasons why meat heads have become tree huggers and it doesn’t look like this trend is dying down either.
As Brits, we eat an average of 80kgs of meat a year. To no surprise, compared to Americans and their 125kgs this seems like a pathetic attempt, but when you compare it the diets of those further East it’s a lot, with the average Thai eating only 28kgs a year. To put this into perspective, 80kgs is 353 steaks, 444 chicken breasts, 1000 sausages or 1212 Big Macs (but let’s not pretend that’s all meat anyway). As it stands, 12% of our adult population is vegetarian but this figure is set to rise and with the team of vegan celebs getting bigger and bigger, the vegan lifestyle is becoming easier to promote regardless of the reasons behind the switch.
The most traditional, and perhaps outdated reason why people turn vegetarian is because of their love for animals. Animals think and feel just the way us humans do and therefore it seems like none other than cruelty to breed an animal purely for the selfish reason of feeding ourselves. But despite being the most traditional, no longer is this the primary motive. The decision to ditch sausages in favour of chickpeas is now taken with our own health and wellbeing in mind. There are a whole host of studies out there revealing how eating red meat can increase your chances of developing bowel cancer or heart disease, and in reference to peoples waistlines, the high fat content in some meats makes it a far less appetising choice for the body-conscious. But, as dieticians continue to reiterate, a holistic healthy lifestyle is what is important, and just giving up meat will never be the answer.
Some conformists have taken an even deeper dive into science (not my forte), and with fears that drug-resistance through use of antibiotics could be passed on from animals to humans, the hypochondriacs amongst us are skipping the meat aisle altogether and simultaneously saving a few pennies in doing so. It’s common knowledge that fillet steaks cost more than vegetable bakes and if your overdraft is your best friend, it’s highly likely that you frequently look for cheaper alternatives to meat. We could all follow in Mo Farah’s footsteps and directly switch meat for Quorn (or was the advertising pay-out just hefty?), but the braver cook will probably turn to protein-rich grains and overcompensate on herbs and spices if it means they can buy a couple of extra beers a month.
But is choosing not to eat meat in order to preserve our own health, just as selfish as the decision to eat it? Other more selfless justifications are important here, such as the argument in favour of our beloved environment. Meat production puts a huge strain on our natural resources and in addition to farting cows, the excessive amount of water and energy consumed during meat production is toxic to the climate. Further still, looking at the wider picture, brutally speaking there are 800million people suffering from malnutrition while the food fed to farm animals is enough to feed 3billion. With my economics hat on, this depicts the conflict of finite resources and infinite needs perfectly and where the choice to be made falls at too high a level, opportunity cost fails to be anything other than life threatening to one party or another.
One final point, I don’t agree with guilt-tripping veganism and I still sit firmly on the fence between the pig farm and cornfield, but referring to the above, as a health-conscious, overdrawn, celebrity following, new-year’s-resolution-er , 2016 for me will definitely involve some sort of meat-free lifestyle. Starting with topping up the freezer with Quorn and being a bit more adventurous with meals, I’ll capitalise on my job as a vegetable buyer and throw myself into British Meat Free Week (MFW) and see if I too can save a penny or two.
Pictures are not my own.