Meals without meat

Family Health Diary

The first of October was World Vegetarian Day and the first of November is World Vegan Day. And if the word ‘vegan’ is a first for you, it means you don’t only not eat animals but also anything they produce – so that’s no eggs, milk, cream, cheese, etc.

I know in my heart that I should be a vegetarian, but I am not. The logic then dominos to being vegan, because if my motivation is that I don’t want to kill animals, then their life should not be spent (and the male offspring killed) just so they can provide me with their milk and eggs as well. I’m an animal lover and if I am honest with myself it disturbs me to think an animal must die for my eating pleasure. SAFE call this what it is –  by not eating meat you are making a conscious decision to ‘eat kind’.

I try and absolve my guilt by buying free range meat and always look for the SPCA tick when choosing free eggs. However, regardless of whether pigs and chickens have a more ‘natural’ life, it is still one that comes to an untimely end because of humans wanting to eat them. One thing I would love to see happen much, much quicker than it is, is to make all available products only free range. While there are cheaper products available based on the practice of caging animals in sordid, unacceptable conditions, supply and demand will not be in the favour of free range.  That must change.

SAFE has some thought provoking information on their website – and if you are looking at the meat free switch, they talk of three reasons to do so.

Do it for the animals (‘eat kind’), for your health and for the planet. Regarding the benefits of plant based eating for your health, you would have to have been living under a rock to not hear regular messaging to eat more fruit and vegetables. We are in the grip of an obesity epidemic and heart disease kills far too many Kiwis, as does cancer. The World Health Organization ventures that about a third of cancers can be prevented with a combination of a healthy plant based diet, being physically active and having a healthy weight. Likewise, increased plant based eating, reduces the risk of heart disease and obesity.

SAFE’s third point is to do it for the planet. With a burgeoning population the planet can’t feed now, let alone as it grows, this seems so obvious. Apparently, one-third of our planet’s landmass has already been cleared to farm animals, making animal farming the leading cause of deforestation around the world, and on average it takes 6 kg of plant protein to produce just 1 kg of animal protein. Wow. Just bypass the animals, and use the land for plants that humans eat (about a third of the world’s cereal harvest is for animal consumption).

Then there’s environmental issues of increased run off into rivers affecting that ecosystem, and the farting cows increasing the greenhouse gas emissions. And, hey that’s just on land – the oceans are being overfished and that’s a double whammy of an imbalance in the marine food web affecting who eats who in the ocean, as well as the bald fact for us humans that fish populations could collapse in the coming decades. All that ginger and wasabi, but no sashimi.

So, all in all as I delve into this, it makes sense to go veg for many reasons. I feel hopeless however and embarrassed that I do not have the strength of my own convictions to do so. It requires energy and commitment to shop and eat differently and if you’re in a household where you are the chief cook mostly, you’ve also got to take your fellow dwellers along with you.

If you want to give it a trail run as such, SAFE are supporting those wanting to try with their ‘100% Vegetarian Challenge’. You’ll get regular emails with info, free recipes, nutrition advice and eating out tips. Go them.

For me – I’m not 100% there right now to do the challenge justice and give it the commitment it needs. I would be disappointed in myself for not delivering. But what I am going to do is double my efforts to eat meat free at least once a week. And from an environmental point of view, I always choose tap water over bottled water as I think bottled water a nonsense. I also don’t want to waste food – ie buy and eat only what we need. It’s not the commitment of a vegan, but I’m trying, and more importantly I’m thinking about these things, and learning more, which perhaps a decade ago not many of us did.


Written by Jude Dobson

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