It's National Vegetarian Week, which means there's sure to be more delicious recipes and restaurant recommendations floating around your newsfeeds than during any other week of the year. So why not take advantage and see if you can take the plunge?
Whether you're a dedicated meat eater, a bacon-lover or an ambivalent flexitarian, there are a multitude of reasons why you should bite the bullet and go vegetarian full-time. And it's not all about animal welfare and environmentalism (although, admittedly, is it a lot about that).
Here, we have laid out the top 10 reasons to go vegetarian and we challenge you not to be tempted. Or at least try it for a week...
It saves animals
Perhaps the most obvious reason to go vegetarian is to avoid being a part of the slaughter of fish and animals. Every year, over 56 billion farm animals are killed for food. That’s an astonishing number of chicks, piglets and calves that are raised for their meat – often in terrible conditions.
When it comes to fish, industrial fishing methods can result in bycatch – the incidental capture of non-target species including dolphins, sharks and marine turtles. This isn't a one-off – an enormous number of creatures are scooped up in these nets and then discarded overboard, often injured or dead.
If you are a friend of the animals, then going veggie is the right option for you.
It has enormous environmental benefits
It’s common knowledge that opting for a vegetarian diet is far eco-friendlier than an omnivorous diet. But the extent to which this is true is unbeknownst to many.
Did you know, for example, that the water required to rear the meat to create one steak is equivalent to two months’ worth of showers?
And that cows produce 130 times more waste than the entire population put together?
Animal agriculture currently accounts for a staggering 51% of all greenhouse gasses, which is more than the exhaust from all the world’s transport, combined. This figure is projected to increase by 80% by 2050 (and we’re set to exceed our CO2e limit by 2030, the way we’re going). If everyone went vegetarian, food-related emissions could be cut by 63%.
It's better for your health
Vegetarianism is proven to have numerous health benefits, with lower cholesterol levels, a decreased likelihood of getting cancer or suffering from heart disease or diabetes. As a result, vegetarians have a longer life expectancy than meat eaters which, if you’re not sold by the environmental concerns, should be enough of a reason for anyone to put down that Big Mac.
It can save lives
As well as the numerous benefits to your own health, opting for a plant-based diet could have a huge effect on global health. According to a recent study conducted by Oxford University’s Future of Food Programme, going veggie could actually save millions of lives. Researchers found that if everyone went veggie, 7.3 million lives could be saved by 2050. And simply by cutting down on red meat consumption, the number of predicted deaths could be sliced in half.
Lead author of the study, Dr Marco Springmann, says that, “Diets low in fruits and vegetables, and high in red and processed meat, are responsible for the greatest health burden globally and in most regions.”
Additional theories suggest that if we all turned vegetarian, there would be enough food to feed the world’s starving.
It could benefit the global economy
Going veggie isn’t just great for saving yourself a bit of bread on a weekly basis, it could give an enormous boost to global economies too.
Researchers at Oxford University say that stopping eating meat could help to avoid over £700 billion in costs linked to climate change and healthcare.
Dr Marco Springmann at the university was also keen to state the economic benefits of adapting our diets, which could save up to £1,000 billion each year in healthcare (reduction of obesity) and lost working days worldwide, saying:
“Dietary changes could have large benefits to society, and the value of those benefits makes a strong case for increased public and private spending on programmes aimed to achieve healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets.”
It can prevent species extinction
Raising livestock and cultivating the feed needed to rear them are responsible for 91% of Amazon deforestation. And deforestation is not only a key cause of climate change, but results in species extinction.
50% of the world’s animals live in rainforests and they are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity so, when you combine those two facts, the effects of sustaining a meat-heavy diet are devastating to plants and animals alike.
It's super trendy
Britain’s vegetarian population has doubled over the past 25 years, according to a report carried out by New Nutrition Business on behalf of Linda McCartney’s. That makes 12% of the population veggie, and they predict that by 2041 one in four Brits will have bid adieu to meat.
Apparently, millennials are the biggest adopters of vegetarian diets, with 20% of those aged between 18-34 being veggie.
Even those who eat meat are considering eating less, with 59% of Brits looking to reduce their meat intake, according to the study.
Many have enjoyed vegetarianism so much that they’ve decided to take it one step further and go vegan – with record numbers joining in the Veganuary challenge this January.
It's easy peasy
Going veggie is easier than ever before. With the increasing availability of quorn and Linda McCartney's products, along with myriad other meat alternatives, you can eat practically the same meals as you would have when you ate meat, so you’re really not missing out.
Whereas in the past, trying to cut down your meat intake might have made for a nightmare, today it couldn’t be easier because alternatives are available in most supermarkets and most restaurants offer veggie options.
Also, as we've just learned that the number of vegetarians is fast increasing, dinner parties will be a doddle.
Dispel all thoughts of tasteless, textureless mush, because a vegetarian diet can incorporate some of the world’s most delicious foods. Travelling to India? Try one of a plethora of veggie curries. Thailand? The options are endless. And when it comes to the UK, we are one of the most accommodating countries for varying dietary requirements in the world so you’ll never feel like you’re missing out on flavours.
Going veggie also forces you to think outside the box when it comes to cooking, and in this way you’ll discover a whole world of recipes and flavours.
Also, you can even play tricks on your non-believing friends with meat alternatives, and see which ones realise they're not eating real meat – which is a fun way to prove exactly how yummy veggie food can be.
Just look how happy this woman is with her salad. Time to get involved…
You'll be better in bed
If the environment, animal welfare and a longer life expectancy didn’t do it for you, then this one might: vegetarians are thought to be better in bed.
According to some studies, a vegetarian diet improves stamina, increases your libido, improves your natural body odour and keeps the vagina lubricated. And the numbers seem to get better when it comes to veganism.
What’s not to love?