View from the fence

Social, environmental and economic issues surrounding GM foods, and the latest news

Now we have a name for people like me: flexitarian


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 meat 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.


Author: Rebecca Nesbit

I am author of a popular science book 'Is that Fish in your Tomato?' exploring the fact and fiction of GM crops. In my work and leisure so far, I have trained bees to detect explosives, used a radar to study butterflies for my PhD, written a novel, taken the train from London to China, organised Biology Week, sold science jewellery on Etsy, and traveled to four continents with Nobel Laureates. Best off all, I've made lots of friends whose support I very much appreciate. Thank you! Please visit my website:

3 thoughts on “Now we have a name for people like me: flexitarian

  1. Probably my worst environmental crime is consumption of milk 😦

    The FAOSTAT is interesting – thanks for sharing that…

  2. Mine certainly used to be cheese. I have weaned myself off grated cheese on every single meal and cheese in every sandwich, but it is still far from gone in my diet.

  3. Pingback: Fun facts, and what they remind us | View from the fence

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