By Izzy Soper, in collaboration with Tim Ridgway and Josh Frame
Going full vegetarian is hard. Meat is something that I really enjoy and the idea of dropping it altogether sounds tough. I may not be a complete carnivore but I’m partial to some meat now and again, and when my family and most of my friends are meat-eaters too, it’s tough to find the motivation to stay entirely meat-free when I’m sat around the dinner table. And that’s to say nothing of my greatest temptation and partner in crime… yes, you guessed it: bacon. How vegetarians wean themselves off bacon entirely is beyond me.
But just because I’m not going vegetarian any time soon doesn’t mean I don’t care at all. It’s true that factory farming is an ethical dilemma; the animals we eat should at least have a good life, right? And most students are concerned about climate change. It’s true that eating meat is a major factor, contributing more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than any other industry. And I like vegetarian food. Just because I eat meat doesn’t mean I can’t treat myself to a bean burger or a smashed avocado on toast now and again.
I want to know that I’m having a large impact on the issues that matter to me, whilst not completely sacrificing the bits in life that I enjoy
The fact is my vegetarian friends make a lot of good points, but I’m simply not ready to go the full way. As a self-ascribed ‘flexitarian’ I’ve decided to cut down on meat, and it can be rewarding at times, but occupying a half-way house is often a struggle.
This is the flexitarian’s dilemma: I don’t want to constantly flit between meat-eater’s guilt and vegetarian’s regret. I want to know that I’m having a large impact on the issues that matter to me, whilst not completely sacrificing the bits in life that I enjoy. Call me a hypocrite, but I’m going to be a well-researched hypocrite at the very least.
So if you’re interested in cutting back on meat, whether you’re an eco-warrior, an animal-lover, a fitness freak, or a very contemporary mixture of all three, I’ve read high and wide (and asked a few friends in the know) to present you the best a flexitarian can do. Here are eight reasons why chicken is the meat you should drop.
- Saving the most animals
Over 50 BILLION chickens are raised and killed for food worldwide every year.That’s seven chickens for every human on the planet! According to Nick Cooney, Executive Vice-President of animal rights organisation ‘Mercy for Animals’, by cutting out chicken the average meat eater would save 27 animals every year. This is even the case if all that chicken was replaced with pork or beef. Eat the same amount of meat, save 27 lives a year – easy
2. Most suffering
Dr Sara Shields, animal welfare expert at the Humane Society (the USA’s largest animal protection organisation) rates the lives of meat chickens as the most brutal among farmed animals. From incredibly cramped conditions, to body mutilation, to crippling growth issues caused by artificial selection, chickens from factory farms, which represent 95% of the chicken we consume in the UK, have a particularly painful life. By dropping chicken, we help the animals most in need.
The British public were up in arms the other week when 1,000 baby chicks were found by the RSPCA abandoned in a field to starve, huddling together to protect themselves from the harsh winter weather. What most people don’t realise though is that standard industry practice is actually to kill the chicks using a gas chamber, and this is the fate of millions and millions of male chicks every year in the UK alone. This is because male chicks are worthless to the meat industry. By dropping chicken, not only are you saving the animal you would’ve eaten, but also her brother from being killed at birth.
4. Bacterial Infection
Dr Michael Gregor, an expert in dietary health and the creator of NutritionFacts.Org, said last year that “the reason that most people have more bacteria from faeces in their kitchen sink than on their toilet seat is because most people rinse chickens in the sink, not the toilet”. Chicken is infamous for its association with harmful bacteria such as salmonella and e.coli., and if you saw the conditions chickens are raised in you’d think twice about eating them – when was the last time you had a bad stomach from eating falafel? (Probably when it was handled near chicken).
Chicken is often held up as the holy grail of healthy meat consumption, but should it be? A recent study into the effects of red and white meat on cholesterol commissioned by the American beef industry (they’re fighting back!) found that there was no major difference in the amount of cholesterol created by the consumption of either product and in fact, some cuts of beef actually have a lower cholesterol content. Whilst the results of the study have been supported by experts (including the aforementioned Dr Gregor), the conclusion that the beef industry reached -that beef can be eaten as part of a diet which fights cholesterol (shock) – has not. In fact, the real conclusion is that beef and chicken are equally as bad for your arteries.
6. Chicken alternatives
With Fry’s chicken nuggets and Quorn chicken pieces and chicken burgers available in Tesco and Holland & Barrett, there are a hell of a lot of convincing chicken-alternatives to try. For anyone who hasn’t seen the video of McDonald’s chicken nuggets being made, it’s not pretty. So if someone can do it with plants and make it taste just as good, I’m in. I’m not sold on the bacon and cheese alternatives though, Violife step your game up!
While it’s true that, pound for pound, beef causes more environmental destruction than chicken, chicken consumption is currently the largest and fastest growing type of meat eaten around the world, meaning that it accounts for massive amounts of environmental damage. This could not be truer than for deforestation, where huge swathes of the Amazon are being cut down to grow soy crops to feed the 50 billion chickens killed annually worldwide for our chicken burgers. By cutting out chicken, we also save the forest that is being cut down to help feed them.
8. Cheat days
Vegetarian eating isn’t all about being a responsible citizen, there’s also loads of good tasting vegetarian food out there now. But on that day when I’m hungover, my will power is gone and I want to treat myself to some meat, what am I going to choose? Do I really want that chicken salad as my indulgence? If I’m going to cheat, I need to stop kidding myself and go the whole hog. Bacon and sausage, you’re up!