Tuesday, July 27

My big issues...

This can be a tetchy subject and invariably it isn't me that brings it up. First up I want to say this. I am expressing my feelings, opinions as well as some hard-nosed facts here. I am not judging anyone, I may challenge you, but I dont judge anyone. Everyone is different. And everyone cares about different things. I just happen to care quite a lot about this particular thing. I've been vegetarian since I was twelve years old. I remember loving steak and kidney pies and I remember loving lamb chops covered in tomato sauce. The smell of roast chicken makes me salivate every time. I get the feeling that the reason I often encounter so much aggression from people who ask me why I'm a vegetarian is that they believe (no matter what my response is) that I am judging them. I know a lot of people think about what they eat and take it quite seriously, I also believe (here we are entering opinion territory), that a lot of people don't think about what they eat, what the consequences of there eating is (on themselves and the environment), and the huge variety of food that there is out there.
Now, I am asking you not to judge me when I tell you I have been watching Masterchef. And you know what I've noticed? Every main course that is served up has meat or fish in it. Every single one. (I may have missed the vegetarian episode, if it exists, it has to be said - but for the last few weeks its been meat all the way.) When nutritionists recommend we eat meat 3-4 times a week why is it that every meal that is prepared involves it? I have the same grudge with a magazine I buy. It has a seven-day food menu in the back and I would say occasionally it has one meat-free meal. One. No wonder people are always asking me what I eat!
I find it astounding that with all the climate change kerfuffle that is happening, the media has managed to gloss over that one of the best ways to help the environment is to eat less meat (or none). Even when it does get mentioned, no one really knows what it means. Does less meat mean once a day?

Now all this aside there are some really really good reasons to go vegetarian, or certainly cut down on your meat and eat free range.
The environment. Here are some facts*.
* Did you know that if you switched from meat eater to vego you would save more carbon emissions than if you switched from a regular car to a hybrid car.
* In Australia, we are reducing our animal species at a higher rate than any other country except the USA. The biggest contributing factor to this endangerment is habitat destruction caused by clearing land for animal pasture.
* 92% of all land degradation in Australia is caused by animal industries.
* Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the World. 67% of water in Australia is used for agriculture whereas 9% is for household use.
* It takes up to 50,000 litres of water to produce 1 kilo of beef. It takes 2500 litres to produce a kilo of rice.
* We each use about 500 litres a day through direct household use (toilets, showers, drinking etc). A person on an average Australian diet actually uses about 3,500 litres a day. A vegetarian uses about 1,000 litres a day.
* Animal industries pollute our fresh water supplies. In the US, factory farms are polluting rivers more than all other industries combined.
* 30% of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia are attributed to animal industries.
* Animals produce Methane, which is, in the short term, a much worse greenhouse gas than CO2. Over the next 20 years Australia's livestock will produce more warming than all of our coal fired power stations!
* Grazing land takes up nearly 50% of the continent, this is in addition to the land cleared for growing hay and other food for animals. If a small fraction of that land was reforested we could "soak up" Australia's carbon emissions in a few decades.
* 790 million in the world are chronically undernourished. Most edible grain is used to feed animals for meat and dairy production.
* The world's cattle consume enough food to feed 8.7 billion people. Yep that's more than the world's actual population.
* Vegetarians live 5 - 10 years longer than meat-eaters. They are much less likely to have heart disease, cancers, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and other diseases.
Animal rights.
I appreciate that not everyone is into this. One of my good friends delights in wearing his t-shirt, "I love animals - they're delicious", around me. However, I challenge you to consider where your food has come from. (watch this interview!) If you don't think you could look a cow in the eye and kill it then perhaps you don't deserve to eat it. If you can't grab a chicken by the neck and break it, then pluck it and cut its head off then you don't deserve to eat it. It's about respect really. Animals are living things, I believe all living things deserve respect. Meat farming is shrouded in mystery. It is almost impossible to visit a farm or abbatoir. You know why? Because it's horrible and not what you want to associate with your dinner!
I really hope this leads you to think about where your food is coming from. Look at the labels on the food you buy in the supermarket. As Jonathon Safran Foer says... it may be cheap on the price tag, but the cheaper it is the more expensive it is to the environment. If you think of yourself as a person who cares about the environment then you are probably being hypocritical when you enjoy your big mac. If you envisage that the food you eat comes from a green pleasant field then you really need to do some fact checking. I'm tired of hearing "yeah I know its bad but it just tastes so good" by people who I know to be intelligent and informed! I think it's lame and lazy. I don't miss meat one bit to be honest. The few rare times I've tasted it in my 13 years I've been very disapointed.

Resources to find out more:
CSU article.
Wonderful author Jonathon Safran Foer.
Factory farms.

* My main source:
Eating up the world. All facts and figues are quoted from here, and are properly referenced in the booklet.

Don't watch this if you're squeamish. But if you are squeamish and eat meat then you should.


  1. ooh good post! I do eat meat occasionally, both my housemate and mum are vegos so i am aware to the endless possibilities, but you can become complacent so easily and i like posts like this to remind me and give me a good kick up the backside!

    when i do buy meat i make an effort to choose wiseley (organic, free range, local), i could almost be vego again but i do so awfully love bacon. damn bacon.

    thanks for a great post :)
    Pepper x

  2. Since watching Food Inc., Allie and I have been more conscientious about where our food comes from. We only eat organic chicken now, and try to support local foodstuffs as much as we can.

    I'm also very happy to take down an animal if someone tells me it tastes nice.

    In my personal experience, vegetarians tend to produce quite a large amount of methane of their own* ;)

    *I kid! I kid!

  3. Thanks for this, I really enjoyed it. I most enjoyed your "if you wouldn't be happy killing it, then you shouldn't eat it" line. That's the clincher for me- it's about being connected to and respecting the animals we eat (or don't!). I wonder about your journey- how did it begin- was it a queezy emotional thing that turned into an increasingly informed, well reasoned thing?

  4. Very concisley argued Sophie. I too get a lttle tirtde of peopel asking 'why is it that you don't eat meat?' And the reasons are all here in your blog. The few times I have eaten meat in the past 15 years my body has gone 'blah, this is not nice'. So the question should be reversed, once you look at all the facts, why in hell do people eat meat?

    Oh and thank heavens for Haloumi.


  5. great post! i am a vego - largely because i was brought up this way but over the last few years this has been a conscious decision for me due to a lot of the reasons you have mentioned!

    foor inc. is a fabulous doco and it is great to actually know the how, where and why of what we eat!

  6. hi sophie,

    cld we put your name down as one of the stewards of the food forest at st michaels in surry hills?

    the workload can be as light or heavy as you wish, either as someone who pops in from time to time to check soil moisture content and to water if need be, or someone who wishes to spend time weeding, pruning and feeding here and there throughout the year. at this point there isn't a heavily organised committee or some such, we think it best that these relationships developed organically within the local community. if youre interested pls email us at: theartistasfamily@gmail.com


Thanks, I love receiving comments! *s*