Stop demonising meat-eaters: it only undermines the value of flexitarianism

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By Nina Bryant, News Sub-editor

If vegetarians and vegans truly care about animals and the planet, then they should stop demonizing meat eaters.

When I stopped eating meat around age seven, vegetarianism was not very common. It was usually something I had to apologise for, or explain to people who were confused about my decision or who believed my diet was unhealthy.

When people became more aware of the problems associated with the meat industry, I have to say my life did become a lot easier. Although I love to advertise that I was veggie before it was trendy, really I am just glad that I no longer have to explain myself - or feel awkward when meat is the only option on offer.

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However, we do seem to have become more worked up about labels than we are about working together to reduce meat consumption.

The issue with this is that it may actually cause a backlash. If the only option is to be vegetarian, vegan or an avid meat-eater, those who do not believe they could give up meat all-together may think there is no point in simply reducing their meat intake.

we should be asking ourselves whether it is still useful to demonize those who identify as meat-eaters, or whether this simply undermines the value of ‘flexitarianism’.

Most of us are guilty of placing importance on these labels. I myself have been guilty of convincing my friend in the wake of her newfound vegetarianism to eat a left over burger – ‘if it’s already dead it’s going in the bin or in your stomach’ – and then proceeding to expose her momentary lapse on social media.

It is hard to resist saying we ‘don’t get’ pescetarianism or calling people a ‘fake veggie’ for drawing attention to the times that they eat a vegetarian meal.

With most students now aware that we should be consuming less meat – either because we live in Bristol or because we were forced to watch the meatrix multiple times at school – we should be asking ourselves whether it is still useful to demonize those who identify as meat-eaters, or whether this simply undermines the value of ‘flexitarianism’.

Promoting flexitarian diets essentially means encouraging meat-eaters to ‘sometimes’ be vegetarian or vegan.

It focuses on an overall reduction of meat-consumption rather than an all or nothing approach, in order to decrease our meat consumption as a society not as an individual. The value of this approach should not be overlooked. Without necessarily being vegan or vegetarian, eating a plant rich diet is one of the best things we can do to combat climate change.

Whilst I do not wish to undermine the importance of highlighting the issues associated with the meat industry, I do think that unfortunately we get tired of receiving judgmental feedback when it comes to things we enjoy – and as a result may proceed to ignore the information altogether.

Not being a vegan myself, I know I actively ignore any information relevant to the consumption of animal products.

I will admit that having no desire to give up eating eggs, milk and cheese means I would rather ignore the issues associated with it. I have noticed that this in turn means I make little effort to use plant-based alternative where possible, because I know I will probably never adopt a fully vegan diet.

Of course we should always be trying to reduce our consumption of animal products as much as possible, but we should not do so by adopting an all or nothing approach. Often, reduction is more successful than trying and failing to cut out meat and animal products altogether.

Featured image: Unsplash/Michael Pujal

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