Vegetarianism

Just for the record, I’m not a vegetarian. But having said that, as I have become more environmentally aware, I have realised that eating meat is a major contributor to the environmental problems we face. This may come as a surprise to some people so I will give a brief explanation:

Animals need to be fed and it takes 7kgs of feed to produce 1kg of meat. This means that massive amounts of land are being stripped of rain forest and in order to grow soy to feed to animals so we can eat hamburgers and Thai chicken curry. Apart from the loss of rain forest, local farmers are also forcibly removed from land which they need in order to live.

There are also many problems associated with monoculture production, such as degradation of soil, loss of biodiversity, species extinction, etc. Water is another big issue, these crops require massive amounts of water not only to grow but also to be processed into animal feed. Water is fast becoming a scarce resource.

Apart from the environmental impact of eating meat, there is also the ethical side. Factory farms where these animals are bred and the abattoirs where they are slaughtered are incredibly cruel. In order to supply enough meat for the demand, these animals have to suffer very cruel conditions.

On the fish side, do you know that 90% of the fish stocks of the sea have been depleted in the last 50 years. Read the other way, there is only 10% of the fish left in the sea. Our little sushi addiction isn’t helping.

I could write pages and pages on this topic, but instead I have appended some links below for those of you that are interested in reading more.

How many times have you been to a braai and there is a ridiculous amount of meat left over? Is it really necessary to eat meat at every meal or even every day? We need to become more aware of 1) how much meat we eat and 2) where that meat comes from (ie. is it organic/free range, etc).

Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which last year earned a joint share of the Nobel Peace Prize, said recently that in order to make a difference in the battle against climate change, people should start with one meat free day per week and then go on to reduce their meat consumption even further.

I’ve decided that this is a simple change I can make in my life which will have an impact, why don’t you join me? It would be interesting to know what percentage of people are vegetarian to some degree already. This month’s poll on the homepage asks just that question.

Obviously, eating less meat doesn’t suddenly resolve one of all other responsibilities toward the environment. Some people seem to thing that we need to choose one thing we do and that’s our bit. Unfortunately that’s not enough. Every single aspect of our lives needs to be tuned to become more environment friendly. How you use electricity and fuel, how you recycle, what you buy, how much you buy, etc. Even eating vegetables comes with some responsibility. Eating genetically modified veggies which have been flown half way around the world and produced at great cost to people and environment is not going to be helping as much as eating local, fresh, organic vegetables. The latter will not always be easy to find, so we need to find a balance and make responsible choices.

As a follow up I’m going to do a post on vegetarian friendly restaurants in Cape Town.

Here are some interesting websites on this topic:

General
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/sep/07/food.meat

Info in environmental impact
http://www.vegetariantimes.com/features/ft_eco_living/574
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/weekinreview/27bittman.html

Info on ethical treatment of animals
http://www.ciwf.org.uk/
http://www.goveg.com/factoryFarming.asp

Eating local and organic in Cape Town
http://aspirantlocavore.wordpress.com/
http://www.mothercityliving.co.za
http://www.urbansprout.co.za

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12 Responses

  1. Tammy says:

    I was a vegetarian for 5 years and my main reason was the environmental impacts of meat. I have been back to eating meat again for a few years but I still have at least 2 meat free days a week just because I like a varied diet and don’t always feel like heavy meals.

    Not all meat is the same in terms of envirnmental impacts.

    Although it is expensive – venison (game) meat such as kudu is a more environmentally friendly choice than the standard beef/pork because game farms usually are a more sustainable use of marginal land and in addition the smaller plants and animals can find a home on the land.

    In a similar note South African free range Karoo lamb and ostrich also graze off the large semi-arid farms of this area. This means they need less farmed feed and at the same time their farming is sustainable.

    If you have moral reservations about the treatment of factory farmed animals, it is nice to know that these animals live very free lives involving open ranging/sunshine before being slaughtered, unlike poor chickens.

  2. Dax says:

    Some good points there, thanks Tammy. I’ll bear them in mind when making meat choices in future.

    I think it will help to see meat as a treat, to eat good quality meat less often rather than having meat in every meal just for the sake of it.

    I might need to get myself a vegetarian cookbook!

  3. Mya says:

    Dax, you are absolutely right. Meat has been the center of meals for so long that people think it is a necessity for a nutritious meal. I myself used to think that I needed to eat chicken at least once a day to get enough protein. Once people understand that meatless is actually a healthy option, reducing consumption of meat will be much easier. I actually work for a campaign called Meatless Monday where we advocate going meatless one day a week to reduce your saturated fat intake and thereby lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. We have a ton of meatless recipes that you might enjoy – check out http://www.meatlessmonday.com/recipearchive. Great post by the way!

  4. Dax says:

    Wow, what a bright and colouful website and lots of nice recipes. I’ll definitely be looking to that for inspiration. I think it’s a great campaign, we should start something like that here.

    Save the environment and yourself…

  5. Cat says:

    REALLY looking forward to your post on vegetarian friendly restaurants in Cape Town – as an avid vegetarian for over 18 years, I can confirm that the selection is limited! Spinach “Canneloni” and “Vegetable Platter” just don’t cut the mustard. Vegetarians have tastebuds too – and they like to have a choice, a rare find on most city menus where we have to settle with “thee” (only) vegetarian option while our dining buddies are spoilt for choice. Apart from Anatoli and Cafe Royale (the best selection I’ve ever seen) almost everywhere else is a compromise. Bring on that list 🙂

  6. Dax says:

    Ha, yes. I started that post on vegetarian restaurants and came up with very little. I’m doing some more research and will hopefully have something soon!

    Also hoping that people will comment on the post and suggest places that I might miss.

  7. loraine abel says:

    i’ve been vegetarian since 1975, for the past 20 years have eaten fish, but am eating less of that as well. vegetarians do not try to convert because of the ‘lifestyle’ of vegetarians, but because of the damage eating meat causes to the planet. it’s a choice that more conscious people should make……..

  8. loraine abel says:

    where’s cafe royale? don’t know it…..

  9. Dax says:

    Cafe Royale is at the top of Long Street, on the left. Fantastic burgers some of which are vegetarian.

    I’m not sure why I haven’t reviewed it yet, seeing as I have eaten there several times. I’ll have to do something about that promptly!

  10. Andrew says:

    Great post, I especially like to eat local as much as possible. Here I intern with the Eat Well Guide, and we’ve teamed up with Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports) to issue the Local, Organic Thanksgiving Challenge this year. Will you join us? And share a recipe? Read more on the Green Fork http://www.blog.eatwellguide.org/2008/11/take-the-local-organic-thanksgiving-challenge

  11. Dax says:

    This looks like a good website for vegetarian recipes:

    http://www.veggiemealplans.com/

  12. Dax says:

    For all the vegetarians, there is a great cooking class at Sense of Taste soon which will cover only vegetarian dishes. If the menu below tickles your fancy, check out the link or email them:

    http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=340700307032

    Asian inspired Mushroom Dish with Shiitsake, Enoki & Oyster Mushrooms
    Ginger Chilli Mushrooms with Soba Noodles, Spring Onions & Coriander in a Laksa Broth

    East African Pea, Tofu and Lentil Curry served as a Traditional Bunny Chow
    (This dish includes learning to bake the bread for the bunny chow)

    Rosemary and Garlic infused Polenta Cake with Leek, Zucchini and Tomato Ragout

    Then we will have esteemed Pastisserie Chef – Angie Haefele – from Vanilla House demonstrating a very special dessert (surprise for the evening) and then everyone to enjoy this delectable delight to end our sumptuous feast!