Recently I made a big change to my diet; I cut out meat. This is something that I’ve been wanting to do for ages but due to living at home with my parents where most of my meals were made for me, it never really felt doable. But now I’m living on my own and cooking for myself at university, I’m finding it’s been a change that’s been super easy to adapt to.
A couple of months ago I would have devoured a cheeseburger and my favourite dish at Nandos was a hot butterfly chicken breast. So why have I made this change? I’ve always been aware that the meat industry isn’t a particularly pleasant one, especially for the animals. But it was only over summer that I began researching the industry further, out of curiosity, as I wanted to be aware of where my food was coming from and the impact on the environment that my food choices made. At this point I had no real intention of becoming pescetarian/vegetarian but after watching several documentaries, I honestly felt like I had no other choice.
Many of the things I learnt through my research shocked me. I was always fully aware of what goes on in slaughter houses as I’m sure most people are; but I wasn’t aware of the conditions that the animals are raised in. Pumped full of hormones, mass farmed and packed into inhumanely tiny living spaces where there is hardly enough room for them to move. None of this sits particularly well with me and the more I read, the more I questioned my behaviours and eating habits. I claim to be an animal lover but why is it that I eat cows but stroke dogs and cuddle my own, beloved guinea pig Alfie. I could never comprehend eating a guinea pig or dog so why do I feel it’s okay to eat sheep and pigs?? With all the facts laid out in front of my, it was becoming clearer to me that I just couldn’t continue eating meat without feeling consumed by guilt. And it’s not just the animal welfare that concerns me but the environmental implications of a meat inclusive diet. Cattle farming is one of the most harmful, non- human activities to the environment due to the sheer amount of land and water that it takes to rear cattle. As the population increases, so will the demand for meat which only means that natural resources will continue depleting as the food industry attempts to keep up with the demand for animal flesh. What’s more, cows and sheep are responsible for producing 37% of total methane from human related activities and methane is 25x (!!!!!) more harmful to the environment than CO2. And with the growth of the population showing no signs of slowing, I am fearful of what this will mean for our planet. I fully appreciate the whole ‘one person not eating meat won’t do anything’ but every little helps and the more people that denounce the industry or limit their meat intake, the more positive change we will see.
When I explain to people that I am a pescetarian they’re very quick to jump down my throat and tell me how awful the fishing industry is. However, for me I just feel that I would really struggle to eat a diet that was 100% vegetarian. I fully recognise the issues with the fishing industry and I am a strong believer that everyone can follow whatever diet they choose as long as they are aware of what they are putting into their bodies, where it has come from and the impact that this has on the environment. And this is the approach that I take to eating seafood. Nearly 50% of fish are sourced from fish farms which is shocking and I’m not proud to support this industry. But for the time being, I can’t see myself surviving without it in my diet so I’ll continue to eat it but do my best to make responsible decisions when eating and buying seafood such as only buying dolphin friendly tuna.
“What do you eat then??”, a question I have been asked a lot recently. And the answer?? A lot!! A vegetarian diet doesn’t have to be boring and I’ve found several alternatives to my favourite dishes. I now make some mean chickpea fajitas and Quorn mince is the perfect alternative to beef mince in spaghetti bolognese (my childhood favourite) and a swap that I am perfectly willing to make! Here’s a selection of some of the incredibly un-Instagramable meals that I’ve been enjoying recently;
So they may not be the most attractive meals but they’re certainly colourful and there’s no doubt that my diet has been greatly improved since making the switch so I can’t see myself going back to meat anytime soon.
I’m aware that this post has gotten a wee tiny bit rambly but the treatment of animals and the environment is something that I’m really passionate about (hence why I also refuse to buy beauty products that are tested on animals.) I’m never going to be one to walk around with a placard announcing that ‘meat is murder’ but if you do one thing after reading this post, I ask that you educate yourself on what you’re eating so that you can make informed and knowledgeable decisions about your diet. And if your decision is that you are happy to keep eating meat, then I am happy for you.