Eating less meat comes with environmental, health, and economic benefits.
EATING LESS MEAT BENEFITS THE ENVIRONMENT
Avoiding dairy and meat is the biggest way to reduce your personal environmental impact. Without meat and dairy, we could feed the entire world with just 25% of the farmland we currently use. Raising, feeding, and processing meat is responsible for the majority of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, which worsen the effects of global warming. Meat production also requires huge amounts of water and land compared to vegetables. Growing and eating vegetables and grains is much more sustainable, with a substantially lower environmental impact.
Many people think that their only option is to go fully vegetarian, and stop eating all meats. However, eating just one less meal with meat every week still makes a difference. The more vegetables and plant-based proteins in a diet, the more sustainable it is. This can range from complete vegetarianism to just cooking a vegetarian dinner a few nights per week.
Many Ethiopians have a semi-vegetarian diet because of their religious beliefs in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Because of this, Ethiopian diets have a lesser environmental impact than diets in many of their neighboring countries.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF A PLANT-BASED DIET
Vegetarians typically eat fewer fatty foods, and have a lower risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, and obesity than non-vegetarians do. Having a healthy heart also reduces risk of heart attacks. Vegetarianism can also reduce the risk of developing certain cancers, such as colon cancer, and other chronic illnesses such as Type 2 Diabetes. Some studies have even found that vegetarians live six to nine years longer than meat-eaters with similar lifestyles. Increasing fruit and vegetable intake has been shown to reduce deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa.
DIFFICULTIES IN REDUCING MEAT CONSUMPTION
The biggest challenge that vegetarianism faces is misconception. People worldwide have misinformed ideas about what it means to eat less meat, and how it affects your lifestyle. Many people think that vegetarians don’t consume enough protein without meat – this isn’t true! Lots of plant based foods are full of protein: beans, quinoa, nuts, tofu, and seitan, just to name a few. Others think that vegetarians have to eat salad for every meal every day – this isn’t true either! Vegetable-based cooking can be varied and interesting, and is much more affordable than preparing meat dishes.
The second major challenge in reducing human meat consumption is meat’s traditional reputation as a status symbol in countries like Kenya. Many societies associate wealth and social status with eating meat, since it is a more expensive product, which makes it more difficult for them to eat less meat. Additionally, some countries in Northern Africa like Morocco and Tunisia have a tradition of cooking vegetarian foods.
Decreasing your meat consumption, even by just a small amount, can greatly reduce your environmental impact, help you stay healthy, and decrease your food bills.