On Becoming a Flexitarian
Originally posted on 13 September 2014 (so when I was almost 24). I’ve since become vegetarian and try and only non-animal products in many cases (aka vegan).
“A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.” – Leo Tolstoy
The Flexitarian or semi-vegetarian diet means eating a mostly vegetarian diet but occasionally eating meat. People choose a flexitarian diet for multiple reasons. Some (including me) are against the animal suffering, others are concerned about the environment, and others do it to lose weight (and be healthier). In this blog, I will argue the benefits of the flexitarian diet and how it has worked out for me in the past few months.
I believe that animals in themselves have an intrinsic ethical value. I argue this from a consciousness perspective, the more conscious (or aware) an animal is of its environment, the more its life should be valued. It is for this reason that we people value the lives of other people, we have full consciousness and can make reasoned decisions. A more limited level of awareness is present in animals, an elephant for instance ‘mourns’ for the loss of a life partner. A pigeon that pecks a lever to get him food also shows awareness, but this is a lesser form than that of the previous example. I believe that the more conscious or aware an animal is, the more we should value its life (read more in a previous essay).
Because animals have an intrinsic ethical value, I believe that it is wrong to harm them. The problem is that we are doing it on a large scale. We put chickens in farms with millions stuffed together. We cut off their beaks without anaesthetics so that they will not peck each other to death for being stuffed so close together. In other cases we separate mothers from their children right after birth, all the while knowing that these animals are conscious beings. And we feed animals until they can almost not stand up straight anymore, just so our meat can be just a bit cheaper. And as I will argue further on, this suffering is not needed in order for us to have a balanced diet.
My second argument is concerned with the environment. The process from the birth of an animal to the meat you can buy in the grocery store is one that puts heavy demands on our environment. Here are some numbers: 40% or our land is occupied by animals meant for human consumption, 13.5% of CO2 expulsion is caused by animals meant for human consumption, 1/3rd of global fresh water is used in the production of meat. This means that the burden on the environment is of epic proportions. And not only do animals for human consumption take up space, produce CO2, and consume a lot of water, they also need to be fed grains and wheat that could otherwise have been used by us humans. With the current state of technology, it is in no way responsible to eat a lot of meat.
Losing Weight & Becoming Healthier
A third argument for cutting back on meat is the health benefit associated with it. People who eat a flexitarian diet – on average – weigh less than (full time) meat-eaters. Eating a more plant-based diet also helps keep cholesterol and blood pressure in check, and heart disease (number one killer) at bay. Two reasons for this are 1) less consumption of cholesterol & fat, and 2) more fibres. As can be noted these benefits are the ones that are associated with a vegetarian diet and the benefits will thus increase if you cut out meat all together. One thing to keep in mind is the chance of anaemia, keep eating things with iron to prevent it. Another concern could be your protein intake, but many alternatives are available, ranging from beans to tofu.
My Journey – Why Flexitarian and not Vegetarian
So why not vegetarian? Convenience. At social events, company dinners or family gatherings it prevents me from going through a big hassle. I know that animals have suffered in making the food, but at the same time the food is already there and I am not the person to force my own eating habits onto others. But when it comes to my own house and food I have, that is all vegetarian. My sandwiches do not contain any meat, and when I make dinner it is all vegetarian (which has been cool, because I can experiment with all kinds of ingredients I have never eaten before).
Some people might argue that there is no such thing as semi-vegetarian, you are either a meat eater or not. I believe that making small steps is already an improvement over eating meat every day. Being a flexitarian is really easy and maybe something that many more people would subscribe to instead of going full-vegetarian. It is beneficial for your health, the environment and the animals. So the better proposal may be: Why not?
“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” – Paul McCartney
More on Flexitarianism:
http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/flexitarian-diet – About the Flexitarian diet
http://www.webmd.com/diet/flexitarian-diet – More about the Flexitarian diet
http://vegetarian.about.com/od/glossary/f/flexitarian.htm – What is Flexitarian