Sunday, October 19, 2008

Vegetarianism and the environment

World Vegan Day is next weekend in Melbourne. I have to admit that I'm not vegan. In fact, I'm a pretty poor vegetarian, given that I eat seafood on occasion. I really should label myself a pescatarian if I want to be accurate, but then I have to launch into an explanation and feel like a bit of a chump for using a relatively unknown word in the first place.

However, since the beginning of the year I have avoided all other types of meat, unless it was snuck into my food without my knowing. And there are the little things that crumble my ethic. Like cheese. I previously thought it was all vegetarian. I even stupidly scoffed along with Tim at the 'vegetarian cheese' at the supermarket, because all cheese is vegetarian, isn't it? Then I learned about rennet, a cheese ingredient which is made from calf stomach, and ate my words. Fortunately there are resources like the Vegetarian Network Victoria, which, as part of it's vast wealth of veggie information, includes a page on brands and types of rennet-free cheese.

I understand that not everyone wants to change their eating habits based on animal ethics, and that's certainly fair enough. But I also think that we should make informed decisions, and most people aren't aware of the environmental effects of eating meat.

Raising pigs, chickens, cows and other animals for food is "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." (source: UN report: Livestock's Long Shadow) Avoiding meat is the most effective thing we can do to help climate change, even before switching our car to a hybrid. Why?
  • Every kilogram of beef uses up to 16,000 litres of water to make.
  • Our rainforests are being destroyed for cattle grazing land at a rate of one football field per second. We need rainforests to supply oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide and moderate our climates.
  • Livestock produces 130 times more waste than we do and it's poisoning water, air and land.
  • One third of all fossil fuel in the US is used to raise animals for food.
  • Cattle produces one fifth of methane emissions, which is 24 times more damaging then carbon dioxide to the environment.
Eating less meat is good for the planet as well as your health, if you do it right. Even changing one of your restaurant orders to a vegetarian one has a decent impact on the environment. Making a few dinners each week meat-free helps even more. It'll save you money, too.

There is an incredible amount of other ethical reasons to decrease your meat intake, but I think I've exhausted my preaching allowance for today. If you're interested, you can find out more at these great sites:
Vegetarian Network Victoria


Fashion Hayley said...

Hey. I have been a vegetarian for 14 years (since I was 10 years old!!!) but I'm kinda relaxed in my attitude now, mainly after living in Japan where being vegetarian is very much not common (I would say not even 1% of people are vego over there!) So yeah that was a hard year. So many things I thought were ok are not (miso has benito flakes in it, so does its a fish broth) but yeah now I dont care about rennet or egg or things, I just don't eat actual meat or go out of my way to anyway.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea about the Cheese ingredient! Thank you so much for posting this information, it's insane to think that rudimentary products like cheese still have additives - is anything really real anymore when it comes to food?

Hayley Lau said...

Hayley, I know what you mean, even in Australia it's hard to be strictly vegetarian unless everything you eat is homecooked, because a lot of food has animal products added. I'm still struggling with it.

Karen, glad I could help! There needs to be some sort of definitive guide for these things, it's quite disheartening.

Vegan and Vintage said...

I have a little book that I highly reccomend that could help you. It's called Veg*n shopper and you can buy it online from
(it's under $10)

Thanks so much for finding me so I could find you!I actually don't find it hard at all, just ask questions, learn as much as possible and be prepared to just order a salad if there is nothing else you think you can eat. I'ts better to sacrafice one meal than compromising on your beliefs and values.

At the end of the day, if you stick to your guns, you'll feel better, more proud of yourself, and be a good role model for others who may not be as caring as you are

Hollie xx

crafty said...

Hi, I also call myself a vego, though technically I'm an occasional pescatarian as well, also the rest of my family do eat meat, I have three kids and I feel more comfortable feeding them a bit of meat each week, because they don't tend to like the high protein vego alternatives. I mostly buy them kangaroo mince, which is really good for you and is environmentally a very good option.

PS. I just had my iron tested; after 10+ years of no meat, three pregnancies and combined 4.5 years breastfeeding, and my iron is fine.

PPS. Your clothes are stunning, love them! (I found you through I op therefore I am)

Adele said...

Great post. So informative.

While I'm no longer a vegetarian (yikes, that was over 15 years ago), this really gave me something to think about. I've been saying I'll do a vegetarian meal once a week for too long.

Thanks for the info on the cheese too.