A third of vegetarians eat meat when drunk? Nonsense

The World Cancer Research Fund believes cutting down on meat consumption may considerably lower our risk of bowel cancer.
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The World Cancer Research Fund believes cutting down on meat consumption may considerably lower our risk of bowel cancer.

OPINION: Earlier this month it was widely reported in the media that 1 in 3 vegetarians admit to eating meat when drunk.

The survey came from a voucher website known for it's clickbait style headlines and surprise, surprise: no trace of the research is to be found, despite several people and outlets reaching out to ask where the study came from.

I've been vegan for nine years and was vegetarian for 15 years before that. I've certainly never been tempted to have a meat burger when drunk. Why would you when you can simply have a falafel wrap or hot chips instead?

The fact is: you don't cheat on your morals.

Right now, animals are trapped in tiny cages on factory farms.

Cows in the dairy industry are enduring the misery and distress of their calves being taken from them. Even worse is to realise just how terrified animals must be at the slaughterhouse in their final moments.

I think any one who truly thinks about these things realises the horror of it all, because deep down most of us care about animals, and are concerned about their welfare.

November is World Vegan Month, a great chance to think about why we eat meat.

Earlier this year scientists in the UK found there are four main excuses that people use to justify their meat, egg and dairy-based diet, which they called the 'four Ns': Natural, Necessary, Normal and Nice. 

If we try to justify eating animals as 'natural', how natural is it to confine an animal in a tiny cage? How natural is it to obtain vacuum-packed slabs of flesh in the supermarket? How natural is it to eat a factory-farmed animal, kept in such unhealthy conditions they can only survive with an antibiotic-laced diet?

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The second justification is that it is 'necessary'. If animal products were essential, it may be an argument for maintaining their use, but they're not. 

Any knowledgeable nutritionist would say that we can get all we need from a plant-based diet, including vitamin B12 from fortified foods. Even the Advertising Standards Authority agrees. In 2012 they upheld complaints regarding Fonterra's advertising where they had stated that dairy is an "essential part of a balanced diet" and "we all need it". This is not true and Fonterra were forced to remove their false claim. 

In fact a wealth of studies increasingly shows that avoiding animal products helps prevent the biggest health problems we have in affluent countries: heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes. The only things we miss out on in a vegan diet are such things as saturated fat and cholesterol. And I'm happy to miss out on them!

Many people are seemingly just following the crowd with their third excuse that meat eating is 'normal'. Yes, virtually all of us were raised eating meat. I was too. However, eating 'plant-based' is becoming increasingly normal too. And let's face it, things change! We don't do many things we once did.

The last N is that meat eating is 'nice'. However, vegans certainly don't miss out on taste. There's plenty of delicious food we can eat when we cut out meat, eggs and dairy. I love a good pizza followed by chocolate mousse or coconut ice cream. And really, if all it boils down to is that you like the taste, that is simply not a good enough reason to take someone's life.

And while we are thinking things through, surely we need to make sure that our diet is sustainable.

The environment pays a terrible price for our addiction to animal products. 

The livestock industry devours resources including feed crops, water and power, while being one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation. The Ministry of the Environment reports that animal farming is causing contamination, erosion, and compaction of New Zealand soil. Animal production worldwide creates more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transport combined. Doesn't it make sense to eat the grain and crops we are feeding animals ourselves, rather than causing environment damage and wasting energy and resources by eating higher up the food chain? 

It's scary to realise that what most of us were bought up believing simply isn't true.  Meat, dairy and eggs are not essential for our health; the animals don't give their life willingly; there is no such thing as a humane death; they are not here for us to use and abuse.

Why would you kill animals or cause them harm if you didn't need to? And none of us need to.

It simply doesn't make sense to love and worship our pets, but treat other animals so brutally.  Many people don't see the connection between the meat wrapped in plastic at the supermarket and the animal it came from. But the truth is this: that 'pork' or 'beef' was a pig or a cow who wanted to live, just the same as you or me.

So whether you plan on cutting out meat completely, or just cutting it down for now, do it for yourself; do it for the environment; but most of all do it for animals. It makes sense.

Mandy Carter is Head of Campaigns at SAFE. November 1 is World Vegan Day and SAFE is running a 30-day vegan challenge at www.goveg.org.nz

 - The Dominion Post

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