World Meat Free Week is approaching. It’s a week dedicated to reducing or completely cutting out meat from your meals. Include your family, friends and partners in exploring new recipes and eating healthier foods. It’s a chance to do some good for the welfare of animals, your health and your larger home, Earth.
Meat Free week aims to create awareness about the reality of animal agriculture. It calls on people to take action in their own lives. What does this action entail? A list of top chefs sat around a table, had a chat and decided this: “make meat a treat”.
“We need to be really conscious of the impact meat-heavy diets are having on our bodies and the planet. Plant-based eating is not a trend or a fad. It’s going to keep growing and expanding. And as chefs, it’s something we need to reflect in our menus, ensuring we include a good selection of plant-based dishes, as well as more traditional meat and fish based plates.”Chef Chantelle Nicholson
Why reduce your meat consumption?
Factory farming as the product of demand has resulted in horrific conditions for animals. This is what sparks the majority of vegans to make the change. Sit back and really consider the sheer magnitude of demand, how do the production companies keep up? This was a major light switch for me. If a household is drinking a couple of litres of milk a week, and there are millions of people in a country, how do they keep up with the demand?
Animals are pumped with hormones to make them grow faster, they force animals into faster cycles of birth and they keep them in small confined spaces to save on costs. My aim here is not to shock you with images or videos. My aim is to educate people about the reality of intensive farming.
A response I often hear is that the farmers they buy from lets their animals walk free and they are really happy. I don’t disagree, perhaps there is a farm or two fitting this description, however, for the most part, this is simply not true.
A recent look into Coca Colas dairy farm video will reveal some of the abuse that animals endure during their life of captivity or before their inevitable death. These videos and images are not uncommon. A quick search will shock even the hardest of people. Animals have become commodities and treated as such. A look into common farm animals behaviour and you can see that they are intelligent, have strong maternal bonds, social and quite aware of life… and death.
Reducing your meat consumption to “meat as a treat” means you don’t support factory farming and support farmers who are actively aiming for sustainability and ethical farming practices. Search within your local communities. Go visit farms. Know where your meat comes from. Another consideration is, “Do you want to eat meat from an animal that lived in those conditions and suffered in that way?
There has been a surge in 2019 in plant-based fast food. The benefits of a plant-based diet rely on eating fresh whole foods cooked at home. Eating a fast food diet, whether it has animal products in or not is not going to be healthy. For some vegans, it is only about the animals and have no problem eating a plant-based fast food diet. That is their choice however it is not a representation of the health benefits of eating plant-based.
So when we are talking about the benefits of a plant-based diet, we refer to a balanced, healthy, whole foods plant-based diet. Here are some benefits of taking on a predominantly plant-based diet:
Its richer in nutrients
The typical western diet that is reliant on animal products excludes a variety of many vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and beans. All of these foods have phytonutrients and antioxidants that keep the immune system strong, protect against environmental factors that cause an imbalance in the body as well as help us to age well (not just pretty but strong too).
Reduced caloric intake
Protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per gram. Animal products are higher in fat than plant-based foods and so a diet that focuses on animal products is inevitably a higher calorie diet.
Alternatively, there are new findings coming out about the kinds of calories you eat. The traditional thought was that calories are calories and to lose weight you need to eat fewer calories and burn more. But what scientists are discovering is that calories are not just defined by the rate of energy released but are also impacted by individual physiology, how the calories influence how full you feel after a meal, brain activity and the effect on blood sugar levels.
When people eat high-fibre foods like nuts and some vegetables, for example, only about three-quarters of the calories they contain are absorbed. The rest is excreted from the body unused. So the calories listed on their labels are not what the body is actually getting.Fed Up
A plant-based diet or a “meat is a treat” diet means eating foods that are more complex nutritionally and so have a better impact on your health and weight management. Eating nutritionally dense foods rather than calorie dense also have a positive effect on mental health, an indirect way of being able to eat healthier and lose weight. When you feel positive you are more likely to make better choices.
Reduced Metabolic syndrome Risk
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of diseases pervading our society at an alarming rate. Heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke are diseases that have become almost normal. Metabolic syndrome can easily be avoided through diet and lifestyle changes. A plant-based diet not only excludes many of the foods that are risk factors (red meat and dairy) but also adds in foods that are protective and healing for the body. Vegans and predominantly plant-based eaters are less likely to be overweight, have high blood pressure or develop type 2 diabetes.
Climate change is an issue that is facing us all. There is no one that can escape the unnerving reality of our planets shifting health. The enormity of the issue means that we all need to chip in and do something about it.
How can eliminating animal products from our diets make a difference?
Animal agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouses gases. 14.5% of the world’s emissions to be exact. This is more than trains, cars, planes and trucks in the world.
Animal agriculture is energy intensive using a number of resources from the very start of grazing to the very end where the final product is wrapped up.
Land is a big issue. And It is not just about creating space for the actual animals but cutting down forests and opening up space to farm for feed. We feed animals more food than what they actually provide. So from the perspective of world hunger and poverty, reducing animal products means we have more resources available to grow food for those that need it.
Animal agriculture is also responsible for gas emissions: methane, CO2 and nitrous oxide. All factors in global warming and the environmental crisis on our hands. A plant-based diet is one of the biggest ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
Water and Pollution
Animal agriculture is resource intensive. Land, nutrients and most of all water. Despite Earth being covered in water only 3% of it is fresh.
56 billion animals are killed per year for food. The resources used to feed and water them could be used to help people that need it more. Water scarcity is a massive issue facing many people around the world.
Pollution is another concern at the top of the list. Animals, all 56 billion of them each year produce waste. And a lot of it. Slurry, the waste from animal agriculture does indeed have useful applications in farming. However, the amount produced in animal agriculture is astronomical. Slurry, when left in pits, produces harmful gases. Once it enters waterways has extremely damaging effects on the aquatic life.
Animal waste also affects people. The gases that are produced from slurry are so toxic that farm workers are at risk. From 2009 to 2014, 14% of farm deaths were related to slurry. This year a man was rescued from going unconscious from the fumes as well as reports of cows dying from the toxic gases.
Show your support – Eat meat as a treat.
From June 17th to June 23rd, reduce or avoid meat and dairy from your diet. Don’t see it as something to get through but as a positive action. Start a new adventure with your partner. Teach your children about sustainability, ethics and compassion.
Greta Thunberg, only 15 and is one of my absolute heroes said that it’s not that humans are choosing to be bad and ignore the problems. Its that they don’t know about it. She went on to say that if we airing football and making that the hype then that’s what people will care about. She said that we need to make the environment our focus. Put that central.
In the next part, I will talk about the various foods you can include in your diet as alternatives to meat. I will show some of my favourite go-to recipes and add in some tips and tricks for success.
Meat-free week is a time to try new things, have fun and do good. Join Dolma Vegan Fragrances in our next post for more information.