‘So why are you vegetarian?’ I seem to have been asked this question a lot in the last two months since I stopped eating meat. It makes for quite entertaining pub chat as everyone is vehement in the expression of their beliefs. The aspect I find fascinating is the high levels of animosity that are present in these discussions. It appears to me that the average meat eater is a lot more militant than the average vegetarian. I’m not entirely sure why it is though I have a couple of guesses. It might be that it genuinely seems ridiculous to them, order they’ve never thought about it much or the reasons I give just don’t register on their world view. The view I’m more inclined towards is that my decision to become a vegetarian feels threatening. By not eating meat it is as if I’m making a moral judgment on those that do.
All illustrations by Kaye Blegvad
I would like to begin by saying I’m not a militant vegetarian. I might sound like one if people ask my reasons, sildenafil but I don’t try and impose it on people, dosage but it’s nice to be able to justify your reasons, whether to others or just to yourself.
First I’ll rule out the reasons that weren’t factors for me: the possible financial benefit had little influence on my decision, and it has nothing to do with not liking the taste of meat, as, unfortunately I really, really do (to the point that at first I had recurring dreams where I was guiltily biting into a chicken drumstick or lamb chop). Instead my motivations to stop eating meat rest on more ethical (to use that wonderfully vague word) foundations.
One of the main reasons that motivated me to become vegetarian is the environmental impact of the meat and livestock industry. The statistics of the livestock industry, they are quite staggering. A UN report released in 2006 entitled ‘Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options’ stated that ‘the livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global’.
The livestock sector is responsible for 18% of green house gases, which is greater than the amount caused from transport. It is also accounts for 8% of global human water use and is suspected to be the largest source of water pollution. It is estimated to take 100,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of beef. As it stands livestock production (including feedcrop production) accounts for 30% of the land surface of the planet, and 70% of all agricultural land. The expansion of livestock production is accountable for a large amount of deforrestation. It is projected that global production of meat will continue to rise rapidly, with estimates that it will double by 2050. It seems clear that the livestock industry as it stands is both highly damaging to the environment and not sustainable.
These are just basic figures, to see far more and a wider range of the impacts I recommend doing additional reading, including looking at the report. But nonetheless these seem to provide a strong incentive, provided one sees sustainability and climate change as problems, to at the very least reduce ones meat consuption. Knowing this led me to have a nagging, guilt-ridden feeling every time I ate meat.
I suppose that nagging feeling is perhaps the real reason I’ve become a vegetarian. As I’ve become older, increasingly things are less black and white and morality and ethics becomes a blur. I’ve retained that ‘catholic guilt’ from my upbringing that means I tend to feel guilty about ridiculous things, often beyond my control. There are problems all around us from climate change to discrimination, from sweat shops to war. It can be all too easy to give up and admit defeat. By no means am I an exception to this. I still get flights to go on holiday despite knowing the environmental impact. I don’t check that every item of clothing I wear has been ethically sourced. These things nag at me, and I repeatedly fail to do anything about it. Similarly the thought of not eating meat dragged at me, wearing me down, sucking the fun out of eating meat, even if on another level I enjoyed the taste. It feels like by giving up meat I’ve taken an active decision, and one that I can manage. It feels empowering and though it might not last forever, and although I still have a leather wallet and belt, it gives me something to feel good about even if it’s only a small thing. It’s a beginning.
- Ivana Basilotta: how vegetarianism inspired a luxury ethical fashion range
- 999 it’s time.
- Hard Rain exhibition highlights need for global action on environment
- Fashioning the Future 2009 Awards
- London Vegan Festival