An indecent proposal to vegetarians

Vegetarianism and veganism have never been more popular diets. But are they all they're cracked up to be? Dan Burkitt proposes an innovative new alternative to giving up your beloved bacon...

I would like to propose an alternative to vegetariansm, veganism, pescetarianism, and even that much maligned label flexitarian (semi-fake, semi-weak but fully-self-righteous vegetarians). I am not going to give this eating habit a similar -ism label because in the world of identity politics I’m sure we’re all sick of self-labelling.

I’m also sure that many of us feel unsure about what we should eat in the post-Cowspiracy age of conscious food consumerism. What is best for ourselves? And what is best for the farmers, animals, and the planet at large? Which of these is more (or most) important?

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If like me like me minimising the environmental impact and maximising the health benefits of your food are the two most important factors. And if like me you are a slightly wobbly vegetarian who still wants to eat meat then I have a proposal.

What I would like to offer you – conscientious but still-carnivorous vegetarians– is the chance to eat chicken and feel good about it. And you can do this by trading out dairy. No more cheese, butter, or milk but a lot more guilt-free Slix. It’s a trade deal even Donald Trump would be proud of. Yuge. Tremendous. Big League. If it needs a label call it Dairy Out Chicken In (DOCI): ‘Yeah sure I’d love to come round for Roast Chicken on Sunday, Auntie Sue, I’ve decided to DOCI’.

The dairy industry is fairly horrifying. In a recent Guardian article Chas Newkey-Burden points out the many ways in which the industry is unethical and environmentally damaging. The practice of separating poor old mum-cows from their baby-cows as soon as they are born so that we can pilfer all their lovely milk is a particularly horrifying practice. Shame on us. Newkey-Burden also reminds us that are plenty of dairy-alternatives on offer in supermarkets, as the demand for these products grows.

Needless to say, the chicken farming industry isn’t by contrast all sunshine and flowers, as much as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall wants it to be. However, the majority of chicken in supermarkets is at least free-range and of all meats, chicken is the most environmentally-friendly. If you are already eating eggs (another dodgy farming practice), I do not think you can really consider yourself to be totally concerned with the welfare of chickens.

There are also personal health benefits to DOCI. Eating chicken is good healthy protein, whereas eating cheese (although admittedly delicious) has very little nutritional value. Cow’s milk is also far too rich for human consumption and it unnatural we drink so much of it. Vegan alternatives can also help you get the nutrients lost from dairy regardless.

Another important point to consider is that chickens are really stupid, whereas cows are really quite majestic. There are hundreds of millions of people who consider cows sacred (Hinduism), but I’d bet a lot of money you won’t find a single person who considers a chicken sacred and with good reason. Let’s eat more of them.

From a financial point of view the two are more or less even: for example, at Tesco 300g of free-range chicken breast is £2.50 and a 225g block of halloumi is £2.00. Admittedly, the real financial kicker is non-dairy milk but you’ll drink it more slowly because it tastes worse and thereby save money in the long run.

For me DOCI seems like a reasonable deal for both wobbly vegetarians like myself and even any meat-eaters who want to do more for the environment (but for you it’s only DO; just DO it). Maybe one day we’ll all be vegan but until then we’re still all human. DOCI is the diet credo for all of us who want a healthy diet, a sustainable planet, happy cows and fried chicken.

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Featured image credit: flickr / tabbynera

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