All of us, to one extent or the other, understand the negative implications of regular and excessive meat consumption. Quite apart from the obvious ethical implications of killing living beings to eat their flesh, there are also several health and environmental concerns that are attached to this issue.
Research suggests that meat consumption alone accounts for almost as much pollution as all transportation combined, including cars, buses, planes etc. It also reduces total food supply, contributing to global hunger and food shortages; as agrarian land which could otherwise have been used for producing food grains is often used for the production of cattle feed. Think about this: we must feed, wash, medicate and care for a particular animal for at least a couple of years before it is ready to eat – for a maximum of about two meals. If all that effort had gone into the care and upbringing of a human child, we could have gotten rid of starvation years ago!
The immediate health implications are even more obvious, and glaring. Meat eating contributes to a vast percentage of all cardio-vascular diseases, as well as the more mundane health problems such as obesity. The same amount of meat can produce multiple times as many calories as that exact amount of veggies. Excessive meat-eating can lead to various heart problems and consequently, a shorter lifespan and unhealthy living.
A friend of mine, who also happens to be a PETA activist and staunch animal lover, has been urging me to go vegetarian for a long time. However, like many people, despite understanding intellectually the larger benefits of a vegetarian diet, I find myself quite incapable of completely giving up meat products. Every time I go to a restaurant and open the menu to see all those delicious non-veg dishes, my mouth waters and it’s a constant struggle to keep myself from just ordering the largest non-veg deluxe pizza available – health and fitness be damned.
As always, I turned to the internet to help me with my dilemma – and the World Wide Web did not disappoint! Up came numerous articles and videos on what is apparently a new up and coming dietary trend, highly recommended by doctors and dieticians alike – ‘flexitarianism’ or flexible vegetarianism.
Yep, it is exactly what it sounds like – an offshoot of the trend of flexible dieting. Flexitarianism allows you to cut back substantially on your day-to-day meat consumption without giving up that delicious Chicken Butter Masala entirely. Under this dietary regime, you can still have meat, just less of it. One can start by designating definite days during the week when they would not eat meat – a practice that is already common among various religious communities of our country. From there, we can proceed to increasing the number of such days until there are only one or two ‘meat-days’ left on our calendar. These can be reserved for the weekends, when you can cook that amazing fish-finger or chicken-bharta for a hearty dinner with your family after a hard week’s work; or even only for the days when you are dining out and find it quite impossible to deprive yourself of the delicious non-veg dishes on offer at the diner.
If all of us cut back on our meat consumption even by 50%, the impact this would have on our environment and the world around us is quite extraordinary! Cruelty to animals would be reduced substantially and we would be living in a kinder and more harmonious world. Various health problems related to excess fat and calorie consumption would fall and we would give rise to a healthier and fitter planet, one with far fewer heart attacks and strokes. Lastly, there would just be a lot more food to go around, and greenhouse gas emissions would fall dramatically.
Flexitarianism is an idea, which like any other, may or may not work for you. But the next time you feel like ordering meat for lunch, just give this idea a try and once in a while, check out the paneer-tikka at your favourite neighbourhood restaurant!