Why do we act like the idea of reducing our meat consumption is an assault on the very backbone of the nation?
This story originally ran in Barker’s 1972 magazine under the title A Life Less Meaty
Vegans are one of the few groups it’s still widely acceptable to hate on. So worthy, we complain. Talk about dull! Not to mention preachy!
I have been 100% guilty of this in the recent past. As a self-loathing vegetarian – I badly want to be one of those food columnists who eats everything – picking on the vegans was a handy way to deflect attention from my own dietary shortcomings. But: enough.
Because whether or not you agree with the animal rights and health sides of things (and let’s be honest, they’ve got a point there too), it’s hard to deny that a vegan diet helps our imperilled environment.
It’s science, innit. In June, a landmark global study landed, looking at the emission of greenhouse gases from more than 38,000 farms. It found that avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact.
Here’s why: per the survey, meat, aquaculture, eggs and dairy use 83% of the world’s farmland and contribute 56-59% of food’s different emissions, despite providing only 37% of our protein and 18% of our calories.
Fairly convincing, then. But here in New Zealand, we really don’t like being told to eat less meat. Climate change minister James Shaw gave it a shot, gently suggesting that if you want to help the environment, eating one fewer meat meal a week could maybe be a good idea.
He immediately followed up with: “We’re not encouraging that as a government”, but the damage was done. Bloody greenies and their nanny stateism!
Similarly, when Air New Zealand announced it would be serving the plant protein-based Impossible Burger on a couple of flights (alongside, of course, plenty of meat), it was seen as an assault on the very backbone of our nation. Online comment sections seethed with indignation, and NZ First’s Mark Patterson bayed about “a slap in the face” for New Zealand’s red meat sector.
What gives, Aotearoa? Hot tip: eating less meat is not actually that hard. Sure, it helps to have money, time, cooking skills and all the rest of it, but if you have so little to worry about in life that you get outraged by the national carrier serving fake meat or a politician making a sensible suggestion, I’m going to hazard a guess that you’re probably able to put a little bit of effort into thinking about your diet.
Here I must admit to being lucky, in that I don’t actually like meat. Never really have. So I’m not one of those vegos who deprives themselves of something they crave, gets drunk and eats a cheeseburger and then feels terribly guilty. If you do love meat, I don’t judge you! And I don’t think you shouldn’t eat it. But you probably don’t need to eat as much as you do.
I ain’t no vegan, and I’m not here to preach. I like cheese a lot. I have no desire to give up cow’s milk in my flat white. I eat a bit of fish these days too. But what I can attest to is the ability to live a happy, delicious, food-obsessed life without heaps of meat.
This content was created in paid partnership with Barkers. Learn more about our partnerships here.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.