Cow road sign

Action: Try vegetarian food

Take action: learn about vegetarian food

We can look around and see an ever increasing number of “Vegetarian Options Available” signs outside cafes, bars and restaurants. We can go into any supermarket and find a huge selection of vegetarian products. Yes, reducing our consumption of meat has definitely gone mainstream!

We’d like to share a little bit with you about what it means to be vegetarian, and why it’s so good for your health, for the animals, and for the environment.

What does it mean to be vegetarian?

Vegetarians avoid eating any animal products – red and white meats, poultry and seafood.

Vegans extend this to eggs, dairy and insect products such as honey and cochineal, as well as avoiding animal products in anything else they consume.

These choices can be for a variety of reasons – often animal welfare, but often too for reasons of health and – and this is where we come in – the environment.

Environmental benefits

Concerns for the environment and awareness of the impact of climate change are on the rise, and many studies have shown that reducing our meat consumption is the “single biggest way” to reduce our environmental impact. Researchers at the University of Oxford found that cutting meat and dairy products from their diet could reduce an individual’s carbon footprint from food by up to 73%.

Findings published in Science demonstrate how meat and dairy production is responsible for 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions, while the products themselves provide just 37% of protein levels around the world.

Methane, produced by cows, is also 20 times more damaging than carbon dioxide.

Animal-based products are incredibly resource-intensive, especially when it comes to water. For example, it takes over 15,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of beef, compared to just 250 litres for 1kg potatoes. Since a large percentage of the crops fed to European farmed animals are grown in developing countries, this wasted water comes not only from European reserves but also from the very countries where drinking water is most scarce.

Land use is also a major factor; using 0.4 hectares of land to raise cattle for slaughter yields only 9kg of meat, yet the same land holds the potential to produce 165kg of protein rich soya beans. Almost 80% of the world’s soybean crop is fed to livestock, and vast swathes of the rainforest are being deforested to clear grazing land and to grow soya feed

Commercial fishing is another issue which is in the news on a regular basis, with severely depleted stocks of wild fish in our oceans and ongoing damage of the ecosystem, including coral reefs. As a response, the seafood industry has turned to raising fish in contained factory farms – a process known as aquaculture. These farms raise millions of fish in netted cages in coastal waters. However, confining so many fish in small areas may lead to a host of environmental and health hazards – many of these fish are prone to disease.

Health benefits

Eating less meat means eating more fruit, vegetables, pulses and other nutrient-dense foods that are proven to boost your health. The average vegetarian diet contains fewer calories, lower cholesterol, and more fibre than non-vegetarian diets. Vegetarian diets are associated with lower risks of a variety of health problems including high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and some cancers.

If you transfer to a permanent, fully vegetarian diet, you should talk to your doctor to ensure you get all the nutrients that you need; he or she may recommend vitamin or mineral supplements.

It’s easy to try

It has become considerably easier to try vegetarian food, and supermarkets are constantly launching new and exciting products. It’s also easy now to find really good recipes online. Finally, meat is increasingly expensive, so you an save a few dollars/pounds/euros as well.

Many who try vegetarianism do so because they want to enjoy food without contributing to animal suffering or slaughter in the meat, egg and dairy industries.

Brands are now battling for our custom too!

Take action: learn more

The best way to learn more is to give it a go; why not find out more by trying this BBC website as a starter …. mmmm!

BBC vegetarian recipes

NB: Please note that you should discuss any planned major change to your diet with your doctor

If you haven’t already, please sign up to our fortnightly email bulletin Take Action using the simple form below … thank you.

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