In May 2020, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released a controversial advertisement linking the COVID-19 pandemic and previous pandemics to meat consumption.
Plastered across brightly coloured billboards, alongside a cheerful tofu-inspired animated character, was the message, “Tofu never caused a pandemic. Try it today!”
The billboard is wrong for many reasons; not only does it trivialize the pandemic and misplace blame, but it also represents a larger issue with the approaches adopted by PETA and other vegan organizations.
These approaches often rely on shaming tactics, like the billboard, that create a binary between meat eaters and vegans. It’s a binary that dictates that you belong to one or the other—you’re either all in or all out.
A survey conducted by ProdegeMR in July 2020 revealed that 37 per cent of Canadians are willing to cut back on meat consumption.
If you’re also willing to cut back, read ahead to learn more about the benefits associated with eating less meat and some easy tips to help you reduce your intake that won’t require you to go cold turkey (sorry—couldn’t resist).
There are numerous health benefits associated with adopting a vegetarian diet or reducing meat intake. A report published by Nutrients found that vegetarian diets can help to decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.
Flexitarian diets, defined as a primarily vegetarian diet with the occasional fish or meat, can reduce your risk of cancer. A study conducted by Loma Linda University found that among participants, the ones who followed a vegetarian diet that included fish had the highest colorectal cancer reduction rate at 43 per cent.
There’s also been research linking the high levels of saturated fats and trans fat that is found in dairy and meat products to an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive conditions. Plant-based diets, on the other hand, have been found to be full of antioxidants, folate and vitamin E which is believed to offer proactive effects.
As an added bonus, adopting a plant-based diet also has a positive impact on your skin. A study published by the International Journal of Molecular Science found that plant-based foods and supplements provide a natural and low-risk intervention for acne.
Better for the environment
Did you know that the water it takes to produce one single chicken breast could fill up your bathtub six and half times over?
The meat industry requires a lot of water to sustain livestock, significantly more than it takes to nurture crops. Consuming less meat could be a solution to reducing water use globally, according to studies by Environmental Research Letters.
Livestock farming also has a large impact on global warming. A report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations revealed that at least 15 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the methane that animals produce. While these facts signal that the whole meat industry needs a transformation, even small changes done by individuals can have a huge effect.
The New Scientist discovered that by replacing an omnivorous diet with a vegan one, the average person can prevent the emission of about 1.5 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Cutting back on your meat intake is easy and doesn’t require much work. Best of all, you’re in total control of deciding what works best for you.
Pick a meatless day or meal
One of the easiest ways to ease yourself into consuming less meat is to pick a day or meal that you don’t eat meat.
“Meatless Mondays” is an international movement created by the organization of the same name that advocates for abstaining from meat products on, you guessed it, Mondays. The organization’s philosophy behind selecting Monday is because it is the beginning of the week, which they say is the perfect time to re-evaluate choices and set intentions for the upcoming days.
If you need your dinosaur-shaped chicken fingers to make it through the Monday blues, just pick a different day! Meatless Tuesday doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but the important takeaway is finding something that works for you.
Alternatively, you could opt for cutting out meat during certain meals. A meatless breakfast could be achieved with some yummy oatmeal options, fruit smoothies or some banana pancakes.
Look for plant-based options when eating out
If you’re feeling unsure about making yourself vegetarian meals, try some while eating out. Everything always tastes better when someone else makes it, right? No cleaning, no recipes, no measurements—just eating!
The restaurant and fast food industry has rolled out some great vegetarian options in the last few years.
Starbucks offers a delicious vegan sausage breakfast sandwich that would pair nicely with your iced coffee in the morning. KFC recently released a plant-based chicken sandwich that has that same satisfying crunch vegetarians have been missing. Burger King also launched their Impossible Whopper in Canada which was met with high reviews and praise.
If you’re looking for some local Toronto options check out Hogtown Vegan, which has a charming patio perfect for summer sangrias. Or try Buddha’s Vegan Restaurant, which has been proudly serving Torontonians vegan Chinese food since 1993.
About the author
Olivia Matheson-Mowers is a former reporter for Youth Mind. When she’s not writing, or playing with her cat, Daisy, you can find her curled up in her heated blanket watching seasons 1-6 of Dragon Ball Z and complaining about seasons 7-9.