Where do you stand in the moral landscape of your dinner plate? How you fill the space between your fork and knife can be highly criticized depending on your meal of choice — whether the decision’s been made for your personal health, conscience of your environmental impact, or for animal humaneness.
Brian Kateman explores the world of veganism, vegetarianism, meat-eaters, and introduces to us a new term — “reducetarianism.” After he coined the newest eating-habit label, he painted a picture of an ideal world where we were all vegetarians. He quickly reminded the audience that it was a romantic ideal, but there are ways to reduce human damage to the earth, and it’s as simple as just being aware and lowering meat intake.
“We all know vegans and vegetarians, the modern-day pioneers abstaining from meat are onto something, even if we ourselves choose to eat eggs or meat,” Kateman said in a TedxTalk that aired in November. “We know our planet is in trouble, and we know that meat production from the clearing of lands and trees to the transportation of these products, accounts for nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. That is why a vegetarian’s footprint is nearly half that of a meat lover’s. And for a vegan, it’s even lower.”
The environmental reasons people choose to abstain from meat has a significant amount of factual groundwork laid out to support them already.
“We also know meat production requires a lot of water,” Kateman said. “Producing just 1 pound of meat protein requires 10 times the amount of water as producing grain protein. That’s a lot of water.”
What Vegetarians Have To Say
When a group of vegetarians who have been committed to their meat-free diets for years were asked about their choices, they each had one thing in common: It was for the health of themselves or animals.
- “I'm against animal cruelty like any sane or moral person is, but I'm not against others eating meat,” Jacqueline Cahill, who has been a vegetarian for at least five years, told Medical Daily.“The biggest factor people don't consider when they do eat meat is the chemicals that are in the meat — the processing and the harm it does. I love trying to make new things, and once you get the hang of where your nutrients have to come from, then it's second nature.”
- “I'm a vegetarian because I believe humans can live without having to kill animals,” Alyssa Melillo, a vegetarian who’s been committed to her cause for nearly 10 years, told Medical Daily. “I don't think we have to sacrifice their lives in order to fulfill ours. There are plenty of things I can eat that are meatless and still get the same amount of protein and other nutrients that are in meat. Plus, a lot of research has been pointing toward the fact that, overall, less meat consumption is healthy.”
- “Meat has a lot of animal protein, saturated fats, and some have carcinogenic compounds that come from processing and cooking it that can cause cancer,” Clare Curl, who chose to go meatless for her own health and to avoid her family’s hereditary high blood pressure, told Medical Daily. She’s been a vegetarian for 10 years, but it hasn’t been without criticism.“It's not difficult to eat healthy at home. It's more difficult to go out with friends and not be judged or order something that doesn't have meat in it. I hear a lot of comments like ‘just eat meat, it won't kill you.’”
- “I did it from a humane aspect,” Briana Massaro, who’s been a vegetarian for nearly seven years, told Medical Daily. “I feel like I shouldn’t be selfish and take a life when I can get all the nutrients I need from a plant-based diet. They suffer and their bodies pump stress hormones throughout their bodies their entire lives due to the environment they are raised and ‘harvested’ in. I am so much healthier now and have never felt better.”
Semi-Mostly Vegetarians and Flexitarians, Meet Reducetarians
It can be difficult for some to find filling vegetarian meals that provide enough sources of proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals the body needs to sustain. It’s possible to sustain a healthy diet as a vegetarian or a vegan, but not without sacrifice and diligence.
“By choosing to eat meat sometimes, as opposed to never eating meat, you alter your moral standards for primal urges and convenience,” Kateman said. “These perceptions matter. These seemingly innocuous labels used to describe our eating choices matter a great deal. They determine how seriously we are taken, how our messages are understood, and our feeling of belonging.”
The concept is particularly appealing because it doesn’t force anyone to completely eliminate meat from their diet, or even eggs, cheese, or milk. Yet it allows the consumer to walk on a fine line between their moral obligations and their basic nutritional needs. Ultimately, the theory’s success is based on if people are asked to simply reduce instead of abolish their morning eggs and bacon or backyard barbequed cheeseburger, compliance levels will skyrocket.
“We need a word that describes a community of individuals who are committed to reducing their consumption of meat,” Kateman said, so they “can encourage others to reduce their consumption of cows, chickens, pigs, lambs, and seafood. Reducitarianism is the practice of reducing one’s personal consumption of meat: red meat, seafood, and poultry. With more consumption of fruit and veggies, reducetarians will live longer, healthier, happier lives.”