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Why more and more people are becoming flexitarian

We’ve all heard the terms ‘vegetarian’, ‘pescatarian’ and ‘vegan’, but what does it mean to be flexitarian? And why is this diet suddenly taking off?

The term ‘flexitarian’ has recently been coined and refers to a diet in which someone largely eats a vegetarian diet while eating meat only every so often (i.e. two or three times a week max). It’s common knowledge that the meat industry is becoming increasingly damaging to the environment, and in a world that is largely dominated by a global-warming-denier it is nice to know that at least some people are beginning to acknowledge that our planet is in need of help.

I myself have been a vegetarian for almost three years, only recently starting to eat fish again. I initially decided to give up meat and fish on moral grounds, but since being friends with a group of keen geographers who have a good knowledge of humans’ impact on the environment, I’ve come to discover that there is a much more pressing reason to be giving up or at least reducing our intake of meat. An article on the Guardian website states that the farming of meat and dairy contributes to ‘60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions’, and according to PETA, the ‘Union of Concerned Scientists lists meat-eating as the second-biggest environmental hazard facing the Earth’, the first being fossil-fuelled cars.

But while many organisations such as PETA promote veganism as a solution, many are turning to the more realistic and reachable goal of being flexitarian.

I am a strong believer in the effect that a communal effort can have, however, I am not a believer in attacking those who you feel ‘aren’t doing their part’. Making large changes to your diet is a big decision, and one that many people do not take lightly. Even as a vegetarian I’ve found myself being regularly asked by both non-vegans and vegans why I bother if I’m not going to do it ‘properly’, and I find this infuriating.

I have never forced my beliefs onto other people – be them religious, political or moral—and I didn’t appreciate being attacked because the difference I was making wasn’t ‘big enough’.

The analogy I’ve decided to respond with is that of giving money to charity: if I gave £100 to charity, it would be ridiculous to suggest that unless I gave all of my money it was pointless. The same goes for eating meat and dairy.

If everyone cut down their meat intake by just a few days a week, it would make a huge difference to our impact on the environment—far more than if a few vegans or vegetarians try to force everyone into their way of life.

I recently had a friend ask me if I, as a vegetarian, would feel insulted if she started eating meat only three or four times a week, and I couldn’t believe that this is how she has been taught by society to think. So many people don’t bother giving up meat because they’re afraid of eco-shaming or being criticised for not giving up absolutely everything, so it’s good that a diet such as flexitarianism is finally getting more recognition.

Flexitarianism should be a way of life for everyone

In society, many live their lives believing that eating meat every day is normal, but it is actually far healthier to focus instead on plant-based foods, which are better for your own health and for the environment. We’ve been conditioned to believe that meals should centre around meat or fish, with some vegetables and carbohydrates on the side, but if you actually view the food pyramid, meat/protein is really only a minor element and shouldn’t be the focus of the meal.

It’s not difficult to cut down small amounts of meat as your week goes on, especially with products such as Quorn existing in abundance in supermarkets, and this is why more and more people are turning to a flexitarian diet—it makes a difference and is achievable for anyone.

There are many ways that the government could help the situation with the environment—for example, the Guardian suggested a new labelling method that would indicate how much damage each product was causing, so that we can make a more informed decision about what we buy and eat. However, in reality, by the time this is realised it will be too late.

Our planet is in dire need of help, and with leading politicians such as Donald Trump denying that global warming is even an issue, it’s time to start addressing it ourselves.

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