I’ve been having a bit of a think recently about the impact I’ve been making on the planet. It’s easy to feel that with so much wrong going on in the world in terms of our carbon impact, that one person’s decisions cannot make a difference. I firmly believe this is an incorrect view, and the only thing really holding you back is your own mind.
While making the important choice of which Netflix to watch recently (would it be a re run of The Office or throwing myself into a new series marathon?), I saw that they had a selection of Ted talks on food. As this is a favourite subject of mine, I progressed. I ended up watching three or four talks in the ‘Chew on this’ category, including a talk by Graham Hill about his reasons behind abstaining from eating meat during the week. I was surprised when his main motive for doing so was the environmental impact. Surely if you want to save the environment you’d stop driving cars or invest in solar panels right? How much of a difference can swapping steaks for Linda McCartney make? In actual fact his talk was so inspiring that I took on his challenge for my own. For the last three weeks, Monday through to Friday, I’ve been eating only a vegetarian diet. Want to know a secret? It’s amazing!
As a food lover I assumed that cutting out a whole section of my diet during the week would leave me wanting, but actually the variety dishes I’ve been able to enjoy have fulfilled my creative and hunger needs, while also coming in 30% cheaper on a food shop.
A few of my friends whom I’ve spoken to since have been surprised by my choice and asked me why I’ve changed tracks. I’ve told them the four same reasons I’m going to tell you: Environmental, Ethical, Health and Wallet.
It’s actually shocking when you think about how many resources go into meat production, particularly that of cattle rearing. In fact, according to John Robbins, ‘In California today, you may save more water by not eating 500g of beef than you would by not showering for six entire months’ (John Robbins in The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and the World). Graham, I feel at this stage in my article I can call him by his first name, goes onto say in his talk that ‘meat production causes more emissions than all transportation combined: cars, trains, planes, buses, boats, all of it’. Hard to stomach I know!
By making a few changes to your diet, even just observing the popular trend of ‘Meatless Monday’, you will make a difference to the world around you.
If, like me, you attended a high school, it’s possible that you’ve seen a video demonstrating just how the battery farmed hens that go into your average KFC bargain bucket are reared . A friend of mine hasn’t eaten any pork products since seeing a similar video on how pigs are farmed (yes, that includes bacon). The inhuman way that we allow meat production to continue is unjustifiable. Although I do still eat dairy products and eggs as part of my veggie diet, I always buy free range eggs and organic milk, as these tend to have higher welfare standards. You don’t have to be a PETA advocate to understand that this level of living for the animals in the meat industry is upsettingly cruel.
According to the Friends of the Earth studies, diets that focus more on fruits, vegetables, unrefined grains and pulses with only a moderate amount of meat are far less likely to develop almost all forms of cancer, reduce their chances of heart disease and live a longer life. Anyone else apart from me want a slice of that action?
Vegetarians are also, as a group, less likely to be obese and therefore live much healthier lives.
I’m sure you’re about to hit me with the classic, ‘But Sophie, how do you live with barely any protein?!’. As our good friend Graham states in his talk, as a society we eat twice as much meat as recommended, so really it’s a protein overdose in regular meat eaters that is more of an issue.
There are many meatless sources of protein which can supplement a diet: eggs, cereals and grain, nuts and seeds, dairy products, soya and, of course, our classic companion the vegetable. By simply eating a balanced diet there is basically no chance that you will run the risk of your muscles wasting away.
However if you are considering a serious change of diet it’s always best to check with your GP first.
I’m sure that anyone who’s done a food shop will realise, meat is expensive. By swapping out a 500g pack of mince with some tins of beans to make a delicious chilli, you’ll save an average of 60%. If you can make that saving on all your meals, just think of all the drinks you could buy on Osborne Road! This makes a reduced meat based diet perfect for students.
Also, meat free dishes in restaurants are almost always one of the cheapest options. It allows you expand your horizons: if you find your standard order of a nice burger in a restaurant is suddenly off the menu, you allow yourself to try new things in almost every place you eat.
So, how’s this meatless midweek thing working out?
I have more energy throughout the day, my purse is feeling fuller and my meals are just so much more colourful.
As Graham concludes in his talk: If all of us ate half as much meat, it’s as if half of us were vegetarian.
I would advise anyone reading this article to definitely try Meatless Monday, and if you’re feeling brave see if you can go the whole week. Let me know how you get on!
For some inspiration on what to cook that tastes great and is meat free I tend to go to Good Food as they have an incredible variety of recipes to fit your needs.
This is an example of a delicious meal I cooked of roasted Mediterranean veg and bulgur wheat with feta and pomegranate seeds. As the old saying goes, if you cook a pretty dinner but didn’t instagram it, did it even happen?