Why I have switched to a low-meat diet.

It is nice to read an article which reaffirms your faith every now and then. For the past few months I have switched to a low-meat diet for a variety of reasons:

  1. Humans are omnivores. We are physiologically capable of eating meat and derive a lot of nutrition from it but the amount of meat we need to eat for nutritional value is far less than what is typical in today’s Western diets.
  2. It is more resource intensive to raise an animal in terms of feed, fertiliser, antibiotics, land use and transport than the equivalent nutritional value of plants.
  3. To raise enough meat for the population of the planet for our current diets requires large scale industrial farming which has negative environmental impacts and poor living conditions for the animals. If we all ate less meat it would be possible to have only free-range and organic meat raised locally and sustainably.

Talking about a low-meat diet is a good thing as I believe many people won’t have thought about it. The advantage of this particular diet (over say vegetarianism, veganism or freetarianism) is its flexibility and similarity to my current behaviour and lifestyle. A big issue with having a strict diet is when dining with other people who are either unaware or unwilling to accommodate your choices. Unless you eat what the majority of people in your country eat it requires a lot of dedication and confrontation to have a non-mainstream diet. With cutting down meat it is possible to stick to it when you have control over the menu but still be flexible enough adapt to the situation.

At this stage I am still learning. My current lifestyle in London is particularly resource intensive – I tend to eat out regularly which has a large environmental impact. There are very few farms in central London and having someone cook your meal is far more wasteful than cooking it yourself. On the plus side eating out does afford me the luxury of ordering very tasty vegetarian food. As I eat more at home, I have been increasing the stable of vegetarian recipes which I can cook.

There is unfortunately one major dietary problem with the line of argument outlined in the three points above: fish and seafood. Using the above three reasons one could argue aquaculture will be the sustainable way to continue to eat food from the oceans. Unfortunately the environmental impacts of intensive fish farming and the sheer amount of fish eaten globally mean that fish farming is unlikely to supply global demand without sustainable normal fishery.

Currently two factors (outside of issues like poverty, nationalism etcetera) are working against sustainable fisheries. The tragedy of the commons, where fish cannot be easily privatised so therefore it is not in the interest of individuals to fish them sustainably; and market forces that drive up the price of endangered fish as they become scarcer thus promoting further fishing. Without accurate global fishing quota regulation and adequate policing of both commercial and pirate fleets fish will simply disappear from the menu. So it has now disappeared from mine.


  1. Rachel

    Wow. That’s really interesting! I stayed with a vegetarian family on the weekend and they cooked some delicious food.

    Hope you’re having a lovely holiday :-)

    134:317 11:06, Jun 25 2008

  2. Joe garlick

    I like your post – I totally agree with you on the philosophy side – but goddamn I’m such a carnivore I’m hooked. Luckily I live with vegetarians now so that helps!

    134:318 5:07, Jun 27 2008

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