Since I wrote about the arguments for being an ethical omnivore, I’ve discovered that someone has made a word for what I was trying to say: flexitarian. Flexitarians commit to reducing their meet consumption without cutting it out completely.
It seems to be popular – 2017 YouGov research found that 44% of people in Britain were willing or already committed to cutting down on or cutting out meat eating.
Various initiatives are supporting this, such as Eating Better’s #MeatFreeLunch campaign. This encourages people to swap their lunchtime meat, fish, cheese or egg sandwich for a vegetable-based option.
The ultimate aim is to encourage retailers to change their offerings. A 2016 survey of retailers and sandwich chains found that only 19 out of 535 sandwiches (4%) didn’t contain meat, fish, cheese or eggs as main ingredients.
It seems to be working, with a range of retailers introducing options which aren’t based on animal products.
There’s also Meat Free Mondays which encourages people to have at least one day a week without eating meat (it is hard for me to understand that some people don’t already!). Schools and other organisations have signed up.
It’s a big challenge, as show by the graph above which I drew using FAOSTAT. And whilst attitudes in the UK seem to be changing, elsewhere in the developed world needs to catch up.
At the weekend I heard from crime writer Steph Broadribb how the idea for one of her novels came from her fear of being pulled over by the police in America when driving round with no tail lights trying to find somewhere which served vegetarian food. That’s hard to imagine in the UK where there is even a pleasing trend for vegan food.
Avoiding animal products is no simple proxy for environmentally friendly food choices, but it is a good start. This isn’t just for vegans and vegetarians – it is something we can all think about.