Yesterday I was so clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself. — Rumi
It started out as a new year’s resolution. When I announced to my friends in a pub on Boxing Day that I was going to give up meat for 2016 I didn’t really give the change much thought. A bit of tofu here, a few Quorn nuggets there, what’s the big difference?
In truth, I had no idea that embarking upon vegetarianism would change my outlook on life as much as it has. I have always felt compassion for all living creatures which was my initial reason behind going meat-free, however as I’ve continued it has become apparent that there are many other compelling reasons to go veggie. I may not have known it at the time, but here are a few of the reasons I became a vegetarian.
1. Animal Welfare
Initially this was really the only reason I became a vegetarian. For years I had always ignored the contradiction of loving animals whilst eating them for dinner. The human ability to compartmentalise is impressive, so it’s easy to see how many of those who care for animals are happy to participate in a diet containing animal products.
Up until recently I would often feel sheepish for telling people I didn’t eat meat because I “don’t want to eat animals anymore.” On a couple of occasions I would hear opinions such as “…well, the animals are going to be killed anyway so what difference is it going to make?” In response I would just mumble something about it promoting a healthier lifestyle and then hope that the conversation would move on.
Since then I have grown more confident in broaching the subject. I am aware that my individual impact on the welfare of livestock is quite slim, however I can take solace in the fact that I am not actively participating in the intensive farming of animals for the purpose of human consumption.
2. Healthier Lifestyle
It goes without saying that by pursuing a diet with the word “veg” in the title, my fruit and vegetable intake was going to increase. I was, however, surprised to physically feel a difference so quickly. Soon after I made my resolution I felt that my stomach was flatter and I lost around 5lb without really noticing.
So how exactly is it healthier? It is proven that a vegetarian diet typically contains less saturated fat and cholesterol. As a result, it could be possible to avoid common diseases an illnesses that are borne of a poor diet.
Research has shown that vegetarians are less likely to suffer from obesity, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, some diet-related cancers, diverticular disease, appendicitis, constipation and gallstones.
The Vegetarian Society – http://www.vegsoc.org
It is important however to ensure that you are replacing the protein and iron found in meat products with equally nutritious ingredients. Green veg such as broccoli and spinach are an excellent source of iron whilst eggs, nuts and seeds can provide you with the protein you need for a balanced diet. Many delightful facts have been floating around the internet claiming that more protein can be found in a stick of broccoli vs. a cut of steak. Forgive me if I’m wrong but I believe these claims have since been debunked.
3. Carbon Footprint
I recommend that if you have a Netflix account, you take the time to watch the docu-film Cowspiracy. Before watching this, I had little to no idea of the strain that meat and dairy-farming puts on our environment. The film outlines how a plant-based diet could reduce your carbon footprint by 50%. From deforestation and emissions down to the use of water and waste generated by animal agriculture, this film throws out a lot of scary and eye-opening statistics.
There are those however who argue that being a vegetarian doesn’t help the environment as much as we would like to think. For example, production of vegetarian friendly foods can also have a negative impact on our environment. For example, the rice paddies of Asia emit methane into the atmosphere as the gas is trapped in the flooded soil. The Climate News Network reports that “although farm animals are a major source [of methane], flooded rice paddies emit as much as 500 million tons, which is around 20% of total manmade emissions of this gas.”
Basically, choosing the right food to help the environment isn’t straightforward. Whether you are eating meat or not, eating local and seasonal produce is a simple way to reduce our carbon footprint therefore making us less reliant upon produce that has been flown in from overseas.
4. It’s cheaper
There are many variables to consider when talking about the change in your pocket, however on the whole I have found my food bill to be smaller. Speaking as someone who hates food shopping with a passion, it is such a relief to completely rule out at least two aisles of the supermarket.
Veggie options seem to be in abundance right now in the UK, with brands such as Quorn and Linda McCartney really stepping up their game with new recipes and meat alternatives every week. With the BBC reporting in February this year that “more than a quarter of all evening meals in the UK are either vegan or vegetarian” are we really surprised that brands and supermarkets are scrambling to dominate this growing trend?
5. Why not?
Since changing from meat-eater to veggie, I only really regret not doing it sooner. My attitude is if I can survive without eating animal products I probably should. Personally I feel it fosters a compassionate and more responsible outlook when it comes to my consumption of the earth’s natural resources. I feel encouraged to research the sustainability of my food choices as well as looking at other areas of my life that I can change for the better.
Looking back to when I sat in my local on Boxing Day nearly three years ago, I’m so pleased that I chose this as my resolution. It was much better than my other option, to stop binge-watching Netflix. Now that’s a resolution I would have really struggled to keep.