Good rea­sons not to eat meat

Herald on Sunday - - WE SALUTE YOU -

Oc­to­ber is World Veg­e­tar­ian Month, and it seems there has never been more in­ter­est in eat­ing meat-free. The trend has been grow­ing. About 10 per cent of Ki­wis de­scribe them­selves as veg­e­tar­ian. But many more could be de­fined as “flex­i­tar­ian”, eat­ing a range of meals with and with­out meat.

A sur­vey by veg­e­tar­ian pro­tein brand Bean Supreme found 21 per cent of re­spon­dents chose a meat-free din­ner for more than half of the week, and a quar­ter said they ex­pect to be mostly meat-free within the next seven years.

And the Count­down chain re­ports dou­bledigit growth in its range of veg­e­tar­ian prod­ucts over the past year.

There’s no doubt a plant-based diet is a health­ier way to eat. “Plant-based” needs to be de­fined, though.

I eat a plant-based diet, even though I eat an­i­mal prod­ucts. I eat mostly plants — veg­eta­bles, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains — with small amounts of an­i­mal foods in the form of meat, fish, eggs and dairy.

This is broadly the pat­tern of the Mediter­ranean diet, and of other pop­u­la­tions who live long and stay well around the world.

In prac­tice this means think­ing of that healthy plate: load­ing up at least half of it with colour­ful veges at ev­ery meal.

You may choose to add meat to the plate, or a meat-free al­ter­na­tive.

If you’re keen to go fur­ther and try giv­ing up an­i­mals com­pletely, an­i­mal wel­fare or­gan­i­sa­tion Safe has an “Eat Kind” 100 per cent Veg­e­tar­ian (ie ve­gan) Chal­lenge this month.

You can sign up for reg­u­lar emails with ad­vice, recipes and tips to help you along.

I’m go­ing to try it, although I have to ad­mit that although I think go­ing veg­e­tar­ian wouldn’t be tricky for me, go­ing ve­gan will be tough, given not only my love of eggs and cheese but also my di­ary filled with the obli­ga­tions of a pro­fes­sional eater.

There are good rea­sons, though, for at least cut­ting back on eat­ing an­i­mals.

The health of the peo­ple is strongly linked to the health of the planet, and eat­ing fewer an­i­mal prod­ucts is good for the en­vi­ron­ment.

As an agri­cul­tural na­tion, the largest pro­por­tion of New Zealand’s green­house gas emis­sions come from an­i­mals, mostly dairy cat­tle.

Glob­ally, one-third of the planet’s land mass has al­ready been cleared to farm an­i­mals, mak­ing an­i­mal farm­ing the lead­ing cause of de­for­esta­tion.

The world’s fish­eries are un­der threat and marine sci­en­tists se­ri­ously wor­ried about the sus­tain­abil­ity of fish pop­u­la­tions.

This sounds pretty scary, and it is. But New Zealand is in a bet­ter po­si­tion than many coun­tries to ad­dress these is­sues.

The farm­ing and fish­eries in­dus­tries are ac­tively look­ing at ways of op­er­at­ing more sus­tain­ably. The wa­ter­ways con­ver­sa­tion may have spurred this along. It needs to con­tinue for all our sakes.

And as con­sumers, we can do our bit by con­tin­u­ing to head in a plant-based di­rec­tion.

Niki Bez­zant is ed­i­tor-at-large for mag­a­zine

Food Guide


A plant-based diet is healthy, and good for the planet.

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