by Winnie Saunders
(Portland, Oregon, USA)
Anecdotal evidence maintains that 56% of vegetarians eat meat. Though they may be compromising their own ethics, it isn’t as bad as it sounds. Adiet that is mainly vegetarian but includes occasional forays into meat-eating is still likely to be far healthier than that of someone who consumes meat four or more times per week.
A touch of vegetarianism is good for all of us and, it seems, for the environment. The middle road is an option for many who have no aspirations to becoming vegetarians but are still interested in optimizing their diet for healthy living.
Vegetarianism still has some lingering associations with food faddists, hippies and puritanical living. Yet over time vegetarianism has become more and more respectable as the health benefits become more widely known. They include:
– a diet higher in fibre, essential for efficient digestive/gastric function
– a diet lower in fat and hence in coronary-causing bad cholesterol
– a diet that is more likely to include a wider spectrum of the vitamins and anti-oxidants needed for healthy functioning and longer life
– avoiding possible health risks associated with meat farming, including high antibiotic levels in animals and carcinogenic preservatives and insecticides in processed meats
Other benefits of eating less meat are environmental and ethical.
– Methane emissions from farm animals are a factor implicated in global warming.
– Questions have come to the fore about the proportions of land allocated worldwide to biofuels, cotton and other lucrative crops, at the expense of food production. Similar issues surround the matter of land used for farming meat rather than plant foods.
– For many, the ethics of food production and issues of cruelty in the intensive farming of many meats (notably battery hens) is an important reason for reducing meat consumption.
Though many aspire to vegetarianism on some or all these grounds, in practice it can be quite an effort -from checking products for animal ingredients to new dishes and ways of cooking that can take more time. The vegetarian remains the ‘difficult’ dinner guest.