I’m not even a vegetarian, so why the heck am I writing this post?
Well, next week is National Vegetarian Week in the UK and I firmly believe that being a bit less meat eating and a bit more veg, nut, pulse eating can make a big difference to our impact on the planet. In fact some experts have worked out that eating meat is more environmentally damaging than being an “average” car driver.
So why on earth don’t we hear more about this from the environmental lobby? I really can’t answer that, except to say that I’m sure money and politics has a lot to do with it. Suffice it to say that it is broadly accepted amongst environmentalists that eating meat as we currently do cannot continue to feed our growing population.
The other day I was at a meeting of our local “Transition Town” network, an organisation which promotes being green and has a goal of getting people to work on sustainability from the ground up (i.e. not necessarily expecting governments to do it all). I mentioned that I’d like the organisation to run a vegetarian cafe once a month and start lobbying in the community for people to eat less meat. One of the members of the group said that she felt that people should have a choice over what they ate and it was none of our business to change that. I was astounded – whilst I totally agree that everyone has a choice, they also have a choice over what/whether they drive or take the bus, whether they fly or stay at home to holiday, whether they grow flowers or veg in their garden and whether they want to insulate their home or not (and spend much more on oil). So what is the issue with asking people to eat differently?
I had an interesting chat with a friend the other day about what makes us into who we are regarding food. We were talking about a friend of hers who is borderline anorexic and touched on the attitude to food in the family home and the way food is loaded with meaning whether we like it or not. Food means love, food means caring, food means survival. Could this be part of why governments and even some environmentalists don’t want to go there? Don’t want to try to meddle with our habits?
Where does this leave us? Well, I know full well that food has all sorts of meanings (note to self – def worthy of another post around children and eating habits), and nonetheless I firmly believe that we have to do something to change our habits. I’m not about to try to persuade you to become an out and out vegetarian overnight (if you’re not already – and if you are, then great)…. but I do think most of us can do something to reduce our impact on the planet by doing a few key things:
- eating fewer meals containing meat.
- using less meat in the meals which do contain meat – put a can or two of beans into your stews or better still boil up some dried beans to put them in.
- eating cuts of meat which often go to waste – I’m afraid I draw the line at tripe and brains, but most other bits I’ll eat and you can make delicious, iron rich pate out of liver (with a good slug of brandy in it).
- eat sustainable fish – mackerel is delicious and is abundant in the UK. It makes a fabulous fish pie.
- designate an extra meal a week as vegetarian.
- introduce your kids to the idea that making a choice to eat lots of meat is an environmental choice – they are not learning this at school (which brings us back to the politics)
- introduce your whole family to the fact that eating less meat is also a great health choice (so long as you don’t replace it all with cheese).
- remember too that replacing meat with lots of cheese ain’t a good idea environmentally – the calculations are complex, but some experts think that, because of the lengthy production methods and the amount of water used, cheese (hard cheese in particular) is just as bad for the environment as meat. (this was devastating news to me since I love my cheese).
Next week I’ll be posting lots of lovely veggie recipes to help you have a fabulous Less Meat Week
Have a great weekend.