How to Be a Reducetarian

©. Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

This term is meant to include all people striving to reduce consumption of animal products.

The first-ever Reducetarian Summit took place in Manhattan last weekend. Speakers and visitors from around the world came together to talk about the importance of reducing societal meat consumption and implementing effective strategies to make it happen.

The term ‘reducetarian’ was coined by Brian Kateman, an energetic young New Yorker who spent years advocating for recycling, composting, and other environmentally-friendly practices before realizing that reducing meat consumption was the single most effective action he could take to help the climate. Making that shift to veganism, however, was easier said than done. He tried his best, but occasionally slipped up, eating a piece of turkey or bacon, at which point friends and family would criticize: “Aren’t you supposed to be vegetarian?”

Reducetarian Summit 2017

© K Martinko: Reducetarian Summit 2017

While Kateman knew he was making progress in his meat-reduction journey, he resented the focus on perfection that made the slightest transgression feel like a failure. That’s when he came up with ‘reducetarian,’ a description that is affirmative, inclusive, and celebratory for all people making good progress toward the reduction of animal products. As Kateman told the summit audience in his opening remarks, there are four basic tenets to reducetarianism:

1) It’s not all or nothing.

With the average American eating 275 pounds of meat per year, getting an individual to reduce his or her meat consumption by only 10 percent would see a reduction in nearly 30 pounds annually. Now imagine if a quarter of the U.S. population did this! It could make a huge difference. Realistically, this is a far more attainable goal than converting people to veganism.

2) Incremental change is worthy.

It takes time to transition, particularly when dietary habits have been deeply ingrained for decades. By encouraging individuals to cut out some meat or dairy, it becomes more feasible for them to cut out more down the road. There are many different campaigns to do this, such as Vegan Before 6 (created by Mark Bittman), Weekday Vegetarian (by TreeHugger’s founder Graham Hill), and Meatless Mondays. These shouldn’t be rivals, but rather different paths to the same end goal.

3) All motivations matter.

People are inspired to reduce their consumption of animal products for many reasons, from health, environmental, and ethical concerns to a fascination with food tech or a desire to save money. All of these are equally valid and should be celebrated.

4) We’re all on the same team.

As reducetarians, we share an ultimate goal – to end the animal agriculture industry as we know it. We should focus on our commonality and not let what Kateman calls “horizontal hostility” prevent us from working together. Freud referred to this unfortunate phenomenon as “the narcissism of small differences,” when people with a lot in common find it harder to get along than with people whose opinions are diametrically opposite. We need to avoid falling into that trap.

Reducetarian posters

© K Martinko: Reducetarian Summit 2017

Reducetarianism is an opportunity to connect with others who come at the same important issue with different perspectives. It has been a neglected space up until recently, which means there is tremendous potential for growth, exploration, and cooperation. The Summit, with its many vibrant, passionate discussions, is proof that change is in the air.