Beans Or Beef? The New Eco-Moral Choices

Vegetarians have long maintained that ‘beans are best’. Morally and practically, they say, vegetarian diets win over carnivorous varieties. Now there’s another string to the non-meat-eaters’ bow: veggie, especially vegan, is eco. So will people choose carrots, not carne, to reverse climate change?

All of a sudden, it’s eco to eat veg. Revisiting the ’emissions issue’, (preferably seasonal, locally-produced) vegetable-based food is now officially deemed less stressful to our environment than animal-based nutriment. And even before this, it has often been said that grain directly consumed is many times more efficient as food, than is beef produced via the consumption of grain by cattle. In other words, if we want to help reduce world hunger, one way to do this is to eat less meat.

But the snag in this simple idea – beans not beef – is, so we’re told, that people won’t wear it.

Commercial or customer opposition?
OK, so there are lots of commercial interests in keeping things as they are; progress here will probably be slow, as the likely necessity for change gradually dawns. But this necessity for change, assuming it arises, will come from consumers (‘customers’ as they used to be called).

So should we all be moving towards a vegetarian – possibly even a vegan – diet, to assuage a very big environmental and humanitarian problem? I’d be very interested to know, especially as I’m on this trajectory myself…

Some quarter century ago my family and I became lacto-vegetarians, for all sorts of reasons. Now we’re beginning to think our inclination towards a more vegan way of life is timely.

But what do you eat?
That’s a very easy question to answer: It’s everything except food associated with ex-living things which had a face. And, if I may say so, our wider family and friends would largely agree we are evidence that vegetarianism is not a difficult choice; when our guests go home, their dinner is rarely still on the plate. Vegetables have proven edible, in a wonderful variety of presentations. Indeed, internationalism is the flavour of the day, once the vegetables have their way.

So, is it true that, however compelling the rationale, people ‘won’t stand’ for becoming vegetarian? The floor (or table) is yours…

Posted on June 11, 2007, in Sustainability As If People Mattered and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Well, why do you want people to change? Is it a) because raising meat is bad for the environment or b) because we need to solve world hunger? I think that way you define veggie eating (non-facial dead things) gives the game away.
    If something is bad for the environment, then pricing it correctly will adjust people’s behaviours. Preventing import of unsustainable product is one way of dealing with it. Encouraging by economic means those businesses that depend upon cheap “meat” (fast food joints spring to mind….) to look for sustainable ingredients would go along way.
    Solving world hunger by us not eating meat is a strange one. Places where there is excessive hunger are those places where it is impossible to grow anything anyway – Ethiopia in a dry spell for instance – and actually not a lot to do with new farms growing grain for beasts.
    The veggie problem is that their case comes across as moralising and that ain’t the way to change people’s behaviours. It appears patronising and condescending, rather like that unscientific advice to women to stop drinking during pregnancy… another tale!
    Approaching this from the consumer angle is about as futile as getting us all to switch to expensive light bulbs – futile until India and China are fully on board with emissions control, and the US plays a proper role in mitigating its own impact on the world.
    In the end though, the evident veggie distate for death is what stands out. I get the strong feeling that eating fluffy animals is what the veggie agenda is really about, not its essential sustainability.
    Give up meat – not likely! Eat flavoursome, sustainably produced food all of all sorts – cows, pigs, veg, fish, whales, shark … I’m up for all of that!

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