Good reasons not to eat meat
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
A plant-based diet is healthy, and good for the planet.