With the current focus on the looming climate emergency, there is a curiosity amongst society to live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle. Unfortunately, a lot of the message is lost in translation and many people are unclear as to where to start.
Why should you stop consuming animal products?
One option is cutting out animal products and adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet. I stopped eating meat in 2015 and have never looked back. I have decided to share the reasons why I chose to do this and my tips for making the change easier.
To me, there are three main motivations to stop consuming animal products. These can be split into ethical, health and environmental reasons.
The ethical reasons centre around animal cruelty. They are advertised heavily by organisations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). PETA choose to promote the cause by sharing graphic content of the treatment of animals. The graphic content, although difficult to watch, is the harsh reality of the unethical standards of the animal agriculture industry. It could be the determining factor in motivating you to give up animal products.
One documentary What the Health discusses the health reasons and is available to stream on Netflix. This is a convenient way to consume the facts surrounding the benefits of both eating and not eating animal products. In my opinion, this nicely sums up the reasons as to why the change in diet is good for your health.
I personally made the switch predominantly for the sake of the environment. The animal agriculture industry continues to place a strain on the natural world day in and day out. It is now an extremely prevalent issue, promoted heavily by environmental activists such as the Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg across the globe.
This strain can be attributed to industry techniques. Deforestation remains a prevalent issue as forests are destroyed to clear more land. This is necessary to create the space needed for the rising demand of animal agriculture. If this continues to happen forests across the globe will cease to exist. This dark fate is not alone. Animal agriculture continues to contribute to rising carbon emissions. This is at a rate higher than that of cars, which many believe to be the most prominent contributor to carbon emissions.
One documentary I recommend watching is Cowspiracy. This discusses the industry in detail and is available to stream on Netflix. This documentary was important in motivating me to stop eating meat. It highlighted the copious, unnecessary volumes of water required for animal agriculture. After watching, I decided that the animal agriculture industry is simply not sustainable, and I no longer wanted to support it.
Cowspiracy Infographic: Available on the Cowspiracy website at https://www.cowspiracy.com/infographic.
Helpful tips to stay on track
Making the switch may seem like an extremely daunting decision. Most people find themselves consuming meat on a day to day basis. But it does not have to be as daunting as it first seems. There are many ways to make the process smoother. One of the most important tips is to not worry if you can’t make the change overnight. Giving up meat takes time and some people find it very difficult to go cold turkey (pardon the pun) on meat.
With the new year approaching, a good place to start could be ‘Veganuary’, a new craze which involves adopting a vegan diet for the whole of January (hence the catchy name) in the hope that it will stick. In January 2019 supermarkets stepped up to plate and released a range of vegan meat and dairy alternatives to help those taking part.
Sainsbury's have announced that they will be launching 31 new vegan products for Veganuary 2020, a step up from last January. One product they released this season has left me counting down the days until Christmas. Their ‘pups in blankets’ are a vegan take on the Christmas favourite of pigs in blankets. This is a meat alternative that every vegetarian or vegan will want on their plate on Christmas Day.
These are among a wide range of other meat alternatives that need to be on your shopping list. They mean that you can still have your favourite meat dishes, including the classic Spag Bol or fish and chips. One of the most prominent brands, Quorn, offers an array of products, from vegetarian sausages to ready meals.
The meat alternative market has expanded considerably over the years making it easier to give up animal products. I have noticed this expansion personally, as other brands such as Vivera have taken the place of Quorn in my weekly shops. These brands offer exciting alternatives such as meat-free steaks and ribs which believe or not will have you convinced that you’re eating meat.
Always remember that switching to this diet doesn’t have to be a chore. You can buy recipe books or look at recipes online. New recipes combined with the meat alternatives can make the change in diet fun and exciting.
You can also take a trip down to your local book shop. I recently read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. I could barely put it down from the moment I started it. The book gave a gripping insight into his own switch to a plant-based lifestyle. I would recommend it as a read for anyone who needs that final push to convince them to make the change.
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer: A thoroughly interesting read.
Like any change in lifestyle, there are several pitfalls you encounter when starting out. Don’t get disheartened if you make a mistake. One of the easiest traps to fall into is to not check food product labels. It can be surprising how many of the products on your shopping list are not veggie friendly. Unfortunately, many of the sweets you may have grown up loving may contain gelatine (an animal by-product) which is not suitable for vegetarians. So, you may find yourself saying goodbye to your favourite Haribos.
Some cheeses, including ricotta sometimes contain animal by-products which are not vegetarian. So make sure to check labels on cheese products as well. If you are making the full switch to vegan and cutting out dairy, brands such as Violife and Follow Your Heart will become your new best friends in the form of vegan cheese.
For me, it is hard to imagine ever abandoning the vegetarian lifestyle. It is very much a big part of my life. It is possible for you to make a difference, whether it be switching completely to a vegetarian/vegan diet or simply reducing meat consumption. Even the little changes will help contribute to a wider movement to save the environment.