Why am I giving up meat?

A recent article in h+ magazine, has prompted me to do something I had wanted to do for a long time. I am giving up on meat, I am bracing Pescetarianism now and will move onto become a vegetarian soon. My reasons for doing this are scientific first and then ethical.

I never had meat till the age of 14. Even then, the only place I could get meat was at my friend’s place. The frequency some what increased during my undergrad days in Mumbai because of the mix of friends and the fact that I enjoyed the sheer variety of choices I had. My girl-friend then was a vegetarian and I was secretly proud of that, but I never took the inspiration to go all the way. After coming to Oxford, my meat consumption sky-rocketed. Food in the college hall had fewer veg options, so was the case in most restaurants and fast-food chains. I lived with a Russian who was a meat-lover and a fantastic cook, it was hard to resist his delicious recipes. I used to tell myself that I am having meat only for survival in this country but secretly I was learning to savour it. I marked my favourite meat salad in college, I enjoyed lasagna and beef burgers. Whenever we had house parties and people asked me if you have a diet preference, I liked saying “No, I eat everything.”

Now, I am glad that reality struck me sooner. There are a lot of reasons why it is good to choose a non-meat diet but I am going to concentrate on only a few. One of the most important reason is the looming water crisis. I was introduced to the concept of virtual water which is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the commodities, goods and services consumed. Meat requires excessively large amounts of water to produce. Most developed countries like the UK end up importing food, and statistics show that only 38% of UK’s total water use comes from its own resources. Thus, a western lifestyle is not just luxury but it is draining water resources from other countries. A meat and dairy-based diet consumes about 5,000 litres of virtual water a day while a vegetarian diet uses about 2,000 litres. Experts call fresh water as the “new oil”. The water crisis is only going to get worse with the changing climate, which is another reason to be on a vegetarian diet. Just like water, a much greater amount of energy is needed to produce  meat than vegetables. Another recent article in The Times, goes to the extent of saying “Give up meat to save the planet“.

Now delving a little into fringe science, as a transhumanist, I have been reading a lot about life extension and during this summer was considering a calorie restricted diet. I actually followed it for a few days but realised for many practical reasons that it is not possible for me to do it with my current lifestyle. Hank Hyena’s article struck a note, may be because I was trying to find excuses not to follow calorie restriction, but also because he spoke about healthy living for longevity. A recent article in the Times of India also spoke about the effects of methionine on aging. Although, these tests have been done only on flies and mice, 40% life extension is quite a promising figure compared to the 10-15% offered by calorie restriction.

With all this data which shouts out to me, I find it extremely hard to continue eating meat. It is now more than three weeks since I left meat and I think I am doing well to keep up. I worry about the climate quite often and finding ways in which I can reduce my impact gives me a great sense of satisfaction. I don’t try and convince people to give up meat. I have come across people who do that and have observed the debate. Most meat-eaters raise controversial points like a no-meat diet is not nutritious enough, leads to lower performance, that we humans are meant to be carnivores and so on. But all I would say is, even if those reasons are not taken into consideration for either diets, the data above is proof enough to show the ill-effects of a meat diet on the environment. As reasonable beings, I hope we wouldn’t need anymore convincing.

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