Omnivores face little social pressure to reduce the amount of meat they eat, even though this could help the planet. Perhaps it's time to consider something other than an "all or nothing" approach to meat-eating.
Everyone needs to eat less meat. We know this now, having learned about the link between factory farming and greenhouse gas emissions, about the cruelty inherent in industrial agriculture, about the wasted resources and the damaged ecosystems that result when meat is produced on a vast scale. There is growing social pressure to go vegetarian or vegan for environmental reasons.
Some people take the plunge, cutting meat out of their diets completely, but there are many who cannot make such a drastic change. They continue as omnivores, perhaps feeling guilty for lacking the determination, desire, or means to eliminate meat altogether.This is an unfortunate situation, because it tends to halt the conversation. A ‘diet dichotomy’ exists, where you either eat meat or you don’t, and there’s no middle ground in which to explore other ways of thinking about food. In the eyes of Brian Kateman, founder of the Reducetarian Foundation, this “all or nothing” way of discussing dietary choices makes the situation worse because it discourages people from taking smaller steps that could still benefit the planet.
In an interview with Grist, Kateman pointed out that there’s no social pressure on omnivores to reduce the amount of meat and dairy they eat – even though every single plant-based meal reduces one’s carbon footprint significantly. Why are we not striving for that, instead of making people feel bad for not going all the way with veganism?
Kateman sees a “less meat” message as making the most sense in a world where meat still reigns, defining holidays and cultural traditions and appealing to people’s palates, like it or not. Any incremental progress is better than none, he says:
“There’s been this perception that environmentalists have differences from animal rights activists, or vegans or vegetarians or flexitarians have differences with one another. But this community agrees on 98 percent of issues — mainly that factory farming sucks and it’s not good for our health or animals or the planet.”
Kateman recently published a collection of 70 essays called The Reducetarian Solution (reviewed here by Sami) and will be hosting the first-ever Reducetarian Summit in New York City, May 20-21, which TreeHugger will attend as a panel moderator. He told Grist:
“I wanted a book that was introductory for people who might be hesitant to go vegetarian or vegan. I wanted it to be incredibly non-judgmental, to meet people where they are, to help them understand why it is that they eat as much meat as they do, and to provide them with reasons why they might consider cutting back.”
Reducetarianism is a way to bring all concerned individuals together, instead of pitting us against each other. To learn more about why this philosophy makes sense, read ‘Why We Do It.’