Hey folks! I learnt a new word today! I can now proudly proclaim myself to be a flexitarian. Yes, I wish that meant I'm in training to be a trapeze artist. Or that I'm a leading world expert on the chemical properties of stretchy materials. All it actually means is that I don't eat meat that much.
Well, big deal. That lumps me in with a majority of the world's population, many of whom have no choice about the matter. So why the need for a fancy new word? Because, it seems, that we in the prosperous West have come to regard having bacon for breakfast, chicken sandwiches for lunch and a steak for dinner as entirely normal. But also because we in the prosperous West are starting to realise that might not be an entirely good idea.
You know about factory farming, of course. The images of chickens crammed into tiny cages and pigs which never see the sunlight, which we push out of our minds when we reach for our plastic-wrapped package of sausages in the supermarket. Of course we'd like to buy free-range and organic. But ohmygoodnesslookattheprice! Um, yes. That's kind of the point. Meat really shouldn't be that cheap. The only way to make it so is by engaging in those intensive rearing practices.
But did you know about the environmental consequences? The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (their name in itself is a mouthful!) estimates that meat and dairy production is responsible for about 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, this news report states that: "The livestock business is among the most damaging sectors to the earth’s increasingly scarce water resources." Yup, all that cow poo has to go somewhere.
None of this is exactly new. I'm sure I had a book about going green when I was a kid, that explained how many cow farts it would take to drown London (due to rising sea levels, you understand) or words to that effect. But it finally seems to be seeping into public consciousness. This month there are at least three initiatives to get us to eat less meat.
If you can hardly contemplate giving up your daily burger, ease yourself in gently with Meat Free Mondays, which encourages you to make just one day of the week meatless (that'll be Tuesday, then).
Reckon you could do a bit more than that? National Vegetarian Week challenges you to "Dare to go veggie" from Monday 19 - Sunday 25 May. Or if you want to go the whole, erm, hog, Friends of the Earth are currently in the middle of their Meat Free May campaign. I haven't been doing the whole thing, but have enjoyed trying some new recipes from mumsnet - one vegetarian dish for every day of the month. The shakshuka has a brilliant name and tastes pretty good too, and I'm looking forward to trying the olive and spinach pasta bake.
So, whether you're vegetarian, flexitarian or just plain omnivorous, give some meat-free food a try! I look forward to gaining some new flexi friends.