Should we be going meat-free? This is something I have been going back and forth with over the last year I’d say. Having watched my sister turn Vegetarian last year and thinking she was mad after over 30 years of being a meat-eater, I am now contemplating joining her. Why? Because I feel that I need to do more for our planet and going meat-free could have the biggest impact.
I have watched a lot of TV programmes in the last 18 months and I am very aware of our plastic problem, of the need to cut back on what we buy and the importance of making better product choices BUT even though those are all well and good, I’m not sure that using a bar of soap instead of shower gel is going to change the world…
This has caused me a lot of self-questioning, self-doubt and anxiety over the last few weeks because what I once felt extremely proud about suddenly felt pretty insignificant. I mean here I am banging on about cloth nappies yet how many other people are still using disposables and won’t even contemplate a change? That whole ‘why am I bothering?’ voice has been chirping away inside my mind.
And, yes, I managed to pull myself together to realise that my small change is having at least some impact but is that enough for me personally? I look back at that little girl who got angry at the news, who watched Wildlife on 1 religiously, who liked animals over people, who swore she would never drive a car, who preached to anybody who listened about the disappearing rainforest and I wonder what happened to her? Where did that passion go? Why am I not working for Greenpeace and standing on that frontline? I guess, because modern life changed me. The ‘stuff’ you could buy, the wants, the needs, the ‘in’ thing, the disposable lifestyle. I was pulled into it all and let’s face it, I wasn’t exactly seen as ‘cool’ when I started banging on about saving the world and animals. The 90’s and 00’s saw our lives made easier by throw away items and to be honest, why would we think about where it was going, what it was doing and how much waste there was when no one ever told you? We wanted it all without the consequences and ignorance set in. It’s easy to turn a blind eye because the truth can be scary.
Yet, here we are, with the exact same issues I was talking about in the early 90’s yet it’s 2019!! Oh, and it’s worse of course. Finally, though, others are talking about it, finally there is a world that has the same views as me, finally I can connect with those people via this online world and not be sat in my living room thinking that little old me cannot make a difference because I now know it isn’t just little old me, it’s a lot of us.
So, back to the topic at hand. Meat. Can I really go meat-free? After all, I am now 37 and this is all I have ever known. Although, since my second pregnancy I have had more of an aversion to red meat which has really helped me to cut down what I eat. I haven’t touched a steak since before I fell pregnant and the smell of one, the thought of one still makes me feel sick even now– thank you pregnancy hormones, at least you’ve helped with one thing!
But what about the rest? I don’t eat much bacon, sausages are nice but I know I could easily get vegetarian ones. Burgers are something I love and I have already started trying vege options but am yet to find one I like and I really must find a mince alternative that will work for us. But the key thing here is that I AM trying. I have actually been trying for months now. We have cut down, we have bought vegetarian meals, meat-free alternatives and we have made a start. The next step is to fully go through with it, but as hubby loves meat I am not sure he will manage it full-time. The kids, however, I think would happily get on board. Jake is already very fussy and refuses red meat plus he has started to ask questions along the lines of ‘was this a real live chicken once?’ and you can see the cogs are working. William basically eats potato-based products and rarely picks up the meat we cook him anyway so going meat-free for them may be quite simple.
The Why Behind This
Now there are obviously a lot of sides to this from the treatment of animals, to the way they are killed, the antibiotics and steroids that some farms use in the feeds, and these are the areas I haven’t yet had the mind space to delve into. I know full well that I won’t react well to it and it will be something that may continue to haunt me, so for now, I am saying that I am very much aware that all of this goes on but I haven’t done the full research. Head back in sand there!!
However, there is the huge climate change issue which comes with clear facts and which were recently covered in the BBC 1 programme Meat: A threat to our planet? as well as the topic being regularly discussed on animal welfare websites, in online articles and in the news. Leaving a lot of us to question whether or not we should be going meat-free?
“Food systems contribute 21% to 37% of global greenhouse gases, and are significant contributors to deforestation, biodiversity loss and declining water tables. Perhaps the biggest problem: livestock. They use a third of global cropland and contribute 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions”
There are more farmed animals for meat on this planet than there are humans– that is how much meat we all choose to eat. To break that down that equates to approximately 19 billion chickens, 1.5 billion cows, 1 billion sheep and 1 billion pigs living at any one time which is three times higher than the number of people. That means that we are having to provide more space, more land and more feed to these animals in order to keep them to then feed us. Peta say:
“About seven football fields of land are bulldozed worldwide every minute to create more room for farmed animals”
There are more facts from Peta on this topic here.
The fact that they need feed, again means that we need more land to grow the crops in order to produce their food. The Amazon is slowly being destroyed at an incredible rate due to the meat industry demand. The farmers have to keep more cattle in order to meet this demand and for them, it is money that they desperately need and they will continue to do it. And even though a lot of our meat found in our supermarkets here in the UK is locally bred and slaughtered it still doesn’t all sit right with me. We have become so obsessed with food across the planet that we have ignored what effect this is having on our climate, to our landscape, to the shape of these wonderful places and the other creatures who also live there. Did you know that fish is added to some animal feed in order to give them more protein which will help to bulk them up for us to enjoy their meat? This fish is sourced off the coast of South Africa. There is now not enough fish for the native penguins and their numbers are declining. All because we want a burger or a steak?! Grass-eating species such as elk, deer and pronghorn have been killed en masse to reserve more feed for cattle. This excessive amount of cattle constantly grazing is also having an impact on eco-systems and is causing destruction to grasslands and trees– food that other animals native to those areas are being deprived of. And these are just a few examples.
I am saddened and shocked. The knock-on effect is becoming more and more noticeable to scientists and wildlife researchers and yet we are not acting on it. Instead, we argue online over people being snowflakes (urgh that word!), we carry on as if we are not the ones responsible and a lot of us bury our heads in the sand and hope the problem will be solved by a Government one day.
This is never going to happen with the people we have in power across the world at the moment, I can assure you of that one. What needs to happen is a ripple effect. As people gradually start to say no, as we start to refuse products or items or foods, the demand will change as will the production of it all. It is never going to be something that will alter overnight and it isn’t always going to be easy but then we are trying to save the world and that’s huge!! It isn’t ever going to be easy.
But with small steps, small sustainable steps we can all make the impact that is required and if that means that I have to change my diet and remove meat, then that is what I will do. Here’s to the start of my next positive change.
So, could you go meat-free? Have you already done it? How are you getting on? I’d love to know. Oh, and any meat-free recipes that we can use as a family would be great too. Thanks!
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