Choice of diet / vegetarianism -- poll

I have a lot of medical dietary restrictions that makes eating a 100% veg diet almost impossible, but I don’t eat that much animal protein. I generally take efforts to ensure that the animals I eat are raised sustainably and accorded a decent quality of life and/or are fished sustainably.

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I unfortunately can’t afford to eat as sustainably as I might like to. I used to grow most of my own vegetables, but we had to move and I don’t have a spot to do so anymore. I do a lot of foraging for food, and I have a pressure canner so I can stuff when it’s in season and use it later.

I don’t eat fish or seafood at all out of concern for overfishing issues. Probably 90% of the animal protein we eat is chicken, with a little beef now and then. We used to eat pork, but now that the pork industry is allowed to “self regulate” inspections, we’re not going near that stuff again.

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I’m a vegetation. I’m a very picky eater and hate the taste of meat (among other things). I sometimes grow some food (but the mealybugs kept killing them), and I plan on growing a lot of food when I eventually get a house.

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I hunt and eat invasive species in Australia, but won’t buy cage eggs/ non-free range poultry, and mostly avoid pork because the free range stuff is expensive. For fish, I go as low on the food chain as possible and eat mainly sardines and herring.

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I avoid mammals, and also seafood on the watch list. I try not to buy anything with palm oil or foods processed across an ocean. I aspire to veganism, but haven’t made much progress (my New Year’s resolution is to give it a good try).

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from the information i have, i don’t feel like being vegetarian is going to have anywhere near the best cost benefit ratio per unit of effort in my case… albeit my situation may not be the typical one. I have a super high metabolism and eat a lot but i am allergic to raw fruit and some other things, so my options are somewhat limited. One figure I saw said that if everyone in the US became vegan we’d only reduce our carbon emissions by 3% and we’d also have to start making more synthetic fertillizer too. People can and do debate those numbers all over the place, but… i dunno. In terms of ecosystem collapse/biodiversity loss crisis, it depends more on how food is produced than what food is chosen, I think.

In an ideal world I’d mostly only eat food produced locally and ideally produce a significant amount of food ourselves and in an ideal world we’d only eat meat that either i hunted myself, raised myself, or purchased from a farm nearby. That isn’t where I am at now and probably never will totally get there, but that to me would be a much better goal than buying a bunch of processed food. But I live in a rural area and also don’t have tons of money and someone who say, has more money but lives in new york city, the tradeoffs and such will be different.
That all being said i think it’s worth saying that these problems that mostly drive this question are system based and one person or group’s actions don’t matter much if they don’t change what others do. And I really don’t see veganism spreading to everyone anyway, and it pisses people off a lot when you tell them what they should or shouldn’t put in their bodies, etc. We need cultural, political, technological, community, maybe spiritual change… doesn’t mean loss of quality of life, in fact maybe the opposite, but it means breaking through entrenched power structures which is about the hardest thing. So yeah, be active in your communities, talk to each other, use your actions as an example. And work on food waste too, that’s a huge one.

Obviously these are just my opinions not as a moderator, curator, etc. And, i have no issue with others being vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, whatever, as long as they don’t try to push it on me… But for some reason people get very pushy about this issue one way or another.

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I do meatless mondays

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For fish - I would be concerned about microplastic and pharmaceuticals. They say - if you care about ocean life - don’t eat fish. Discarded bycatch. Whales caught in abandoned fishing nets. Maybe tilapia in a pond on a farm?

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I take some inspiration from Meatless Mondays, and try to make A Meal vegan when I can.

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At risk of sounding like someone who’s trying to push diet changes on you (and I’m not - I think everyone has to find their own lifestyle modifications re: climate change and it may or may not be diet based) - the figures about a change in the US diet are an interesting one.

I was just looking into this and it’s surprisingly hard to find a solid number. I think the 3% emissions reduction is if you account only for the emissions of the animal itself and not transport/feed or land use - the study itself was controversial in academic circles (1, 2, 3). I saw another that said a 28% reduction in emissions if all of America went vegan (and I can’t give up cheese lol) but that was out of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dairy Forage Research Center and it’s been really evident in the past (ie the food pyramid and dairy lobbying) that the dairy and cattle industries influence the USDA and modify research reporting extensively. Then there was this which suggested flexitarian might be better than vegetarian (but not as good as vegan) for footprint. Then of course you have things like Cowspiracy aggressively asserting that veganism would essentially cure all climate woes (surely an overstatement - you are very right about the

required in our social overhaul.) Then there’s things like where the water usage comes from in both almond and dairy milk - I came of age in California during a severe drought, so I’m wary of almond anything, but we channel a ton of water into the cattle/dairy industries as well.

Anyway, I mention all this not to harangue or attempt to convince anyone, but to open a science-driven discussion. I think it’s remarkably difficult to develop a clear picture of emissions impacts from diet as things stand currently, and I assume we on iNat are all science-oriented for the most part - even I, the academic humanist, gravitate toward scientific research methods at heart. I’m interested in hearing anyone’s academic or scholarly assessment of these issues particularly as science reporting is so unreliable and clickbait-y.

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I think how we farm can matter more than what we farm though the changes we need would probably result in there being less meat around.

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When you see the past and current impacts of almost 200 years of livestock grazing on ecosystems in the more xeric parts of western North America, it can have an effect on one’s desire for red meat.

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Not bison!

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Guilty of taking virtual water from California’s drought as I eat almonds in my muesli each morning. But the Western Cape exports virtual water from our drought - as fruit and wine. Agriculture provides rural employment. Pros and cons.

At this point I think the poll numbers have largely stabilized. Right now we have:

53% no restrictions
23% vegetarian
18% other
6% vegan

That’s a much higher percentage of non-standard eating patterns than the world in general (excluding, say, India, which sits at roughly 30% vegetarian).

I’ve liked hearing what each of you has to say, and if I find time I’ll probably come back here with specific responses. It truly is a complex issue, and varies with each person’s situation.

It does seem that most people here make a conscious attempt to think about the impact of what they eat, and why they eat it, which is great! (And the most important step, in my opinion).

My own decisions are somewhat a product of where I live, since Israel a small country with limited space for farming / raising animals, and has… complicated relationships with her neighbours which affects what is imported and from where. Vegetables are “dirt cheap” here :smiley: and a lot of cow/chicken meat comes from large facilities with known animal welfare violations (I’m sorry to say). Wheat and apples are largely imported, but citrus are plentiful and came from a farm probably up to a three hour drive away. It’s complicated to keep track of everything and balance price vs ecological impact vs convenience.

Any way, thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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I’m vegetarian, though I’ll admit I don’t put a ton of effort into things like checking ingredient lists for gelatin or animal rennet. I do avoid leather goods when possible too, though. I’d encourage all people not to think of an ethical diet as an all-or-nothing thing, but rather something aspirational. So if something like just reducing beef fits well into your lifestyle, do that and feel good about it. Absolutism and militancy about diets only hurts the cause because the result is that for many people who can’t easily make a full transition, it leaves a feeling that they might as well do nothing at all.

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I guess I would be a flexitarian, and have been for some time. I would prefer to live like jurga_li states, as my main problem with ‘meat’ is the way it is raised and killed. I also have to consider those around me. I was largely vegetarian for a few years, but did not want to impose that on my kids, so rather than making three meals, I gave up and just made two (as sure as eggs is eggs, one of the three would not want to eat what the other two did).
My spouse (not my kids mother) is a carnivore. She was brought up to think all meals had to have animal protein, so I’ve had to follow her. In the past couple of years we have been eating much less meat, but I have not tried to ‘convert’ her.
A point raised above is that grazed cattle can actually enhance grassland biodiversity, at least here in Canada. And they can produce meat on land not suitable for crops. Sheep wreck the landscape. Although I love wool for winter wear.
It’s a complicated issue, and I believe there are no absolute right or wrong answers. I suspect that eating less meat would benefit us (because it’s all about ‘us’), but I really don’t like how livestock are reared and killed, nor do I approve of modern commercial fishing methods. I live my life in an ethical quandary!

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Much of the diet problem and impact of diet on the environment depend on where people live. If I wished to become a vegan (for example), then, in order to have organism-sustaining diet, it will have to be environmentally unsustainable, because our climate is not suitable to grow variable enough plant products so most of them will have to be imported. In many ways I follow the cuisine of my grandparents: not too much meat, vegetables, meat and dairy largely local produce, but it would be sad not to have any fresh fruits or vegetables(most of them) for four winter months – such was way of life in the village of my childhood. But what I do follow very strictly – no wasting! Buy and make exact amount you are able to eat, order in the restaurant only one dish if the waiter says that portions are big. As to the clothes, same rule again – it is not so about wear wool or leather or not. It is how many you buy and throw away. And what impact on the environment (in the sense of decay time, of particles produced during wearing and washing, etc.) has synthetics and natural fibers/leather?

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Other: I was a strict vegetarian from the age of 16 until I was in my 40’s. My diet left a LOT to be desired and eventually I had a host of health problems from nutritional deficiencies. I tried to start eating meat again but just couldn’t manage it with any regularity, plus the texture still grosses me out. These days I still don’t eat meat but do not freak out over cross contamination or meat stock in soups. My nutritional issues resolved once I started making better dietary choices.

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