What would happen to the animals if we don’t eat them? Can a person live without meat? Is it possible for a person to give up bacon? These are just some of the questions carnivores raise most days, but especially on days like Monday June 12, ‘World Meat Free Day’.
The answers are; animals would no longer be breed at an unnatural rate in horrific conditions or slaughtered; yes, a person can live without meat – if an elephant can, a person can; yes, it is possible to give up bacon as millions of people around the world do not eat bacon for religious reasons and if one is that desperate for the taste, there are alternatives.
Unlike most people living on the Rock, I grew up in the countryside surrounded by farms. I remember being with my uncle as he selected which one of his diary cows he would send to slaughter. Sometimes it was a home kill, sometimes the cow was killed at the slaughter house. The next thing we knew was that the commercial sized freezer on the farm was full of beef, be it steaks, burgers or joints. I didn’t think much about it, cows back then were for milking and being killed to feed me.
It took me a good few years to realise what is wrong with that – animals are sentient beings. This came about when I rescued my dog Molly and I saw that by not eating Molly – like some countries do – but happily eating a cow, a pig, a kangaroo, a rabbit etc, I was being speciesist. On this realisation, I went vegetarian and on the realisation as to how cruel the dairy industry is, I adopted a plant-based diet.
In addition, despite declaring myself a ‘greenie’ and ‘environmentalist’ for many years, I had no idea just how damaging livestock farming is to the environment until movies like Cowspiracy came out. Now, I truly believe one cannot be an environmentalist unless they are vegan.
What is World Meat Free Day?
World Meat Free Day aims to bring awareness to the impact the foods we eat have on the environment, with some foods having a bigger impact than others. You could say that the aim of the day is to help people remove their heads from the sand and make positive choices and decisions about their lifestyle, in particular, their diet.
The fact is, if people continue to eat meat, our already strained planet, will deteriorate further and “there will not be enough water available to produce food for the expected 9 billion population in 2050,” Malin Falkenmark and colleagues at the Stockholm International Water Institute reported.
Roughly, 70% of agricultural land is used for livestock and, excluding ice regions, livestock covers 45% of the earth’s total land!
18% of global greenhouse emission is caused by livestock farming, without taking into account the transport of livestock or fertilisers used; it is 5% more than the combined exhaust from all transportation across all sectors. Because of our industries like bunkering, Gibraltar already has a high carbon footprint. Reducing the amount of meat eaten on the Rock will in turn reduce our carbon footprint. Livestock and their by-products account for at least 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.
If I told you I left a normal light bulb on 24 hours a day for 50 days, you would look at me like I wasted electricity and you would know it’s bad for the environment. As shocking as it may seem, the amount of CO2 that lightbulb produces is the same as what the production of one joint of beef creates.
Can we really complain about the pollution from the nearby refinery in Spain, if we are all contributing to pollution via our diet? (For the record, I am against the refinery pollution too.) We feel strongly about the dark smoke coming out of those chimneys because it’s right there, in our face. Animal agriculture is hidden.
The organisers of the international day state by 2050, the projected greenhouse gas emissions will increase by 80%. That means you, your children, nieces, nephews etc will live in a world where more and more people will starve and die, because the demand for food cannot be met. It’s truly scary when we think about it and we need to remind ourselves that Earth is literally irreplaceable.
These are facts. They are scary and they are our doing but we can undo them.
Before, you think that the organisers are trying to scaremonger you into all becoming vegetarian or vegan, they aren’t. They are asking you to give going meat-free a go, just “to show how easy it can be, so that you eat less meat throughout the year.”
Meat Free Day in Gibraltar
Gibraltarians traditionally love their meat products, be it the jamon at Christmas, pinchitos on the BBQ or rotisserie chicken from a fast food outlet. In a place like Gibraltar, can people change their eating habits?
Conscience Eating is a fantastic initiative team, comprising of representatives from the AWCP, the GHA, and Thinking Green. They are bringing the message to all on the Rock that eating consciously is important for the environment. “The campaign is about awareness, inspiration and options,” said Jessica Leaper, founder of the Conscious Eating initiative.
Thanks to their hard work, some of our local restaurants and establishments are supporting the day. They will do this by actively prompting their diners to choose meat-free meals that day and possibly everyday as more and more restaurants offer meat-free options. Others will display table-talkers created by Conscience Eating aimed at raising awareness and inspiring people to make the transition from eating meat at every meal to creating or eating meat-free meals at least once a week.
Two days before No Meat Day is Calentita, Gibraltar’s biggest food festival and street party, where a tasty prelude to Meat Free Day is available to you. Conscience Eating will be running a stall where you can try all-vegan food. The stall will have many meat substitute options. Basically, “non-meat, that looks and tastes like meat.” They want to tempt meat eaters into trying something new, different and, of course, tasty. In addition, all the crockery and cutlery used will be environmentally friendly, non-plastic, completely biodegradable and reusable.
Jessica said that Conscience Eating is not just about the food we eat but also the packaging it comes in and the over-use of plastic disposables; how far it has travelled to get to your plate and how it has been processed can all affect the environment and your health.
‘The Conscious Eating initiative aims to encourage people to take responsibility for their individual choices because every individual choice ultimately does matter. The choice to eat meat at a meal can have a bigger impact than people might realise, not just for their own health but for the environment and the future of the planet’. The Government endorsed initiative has evolved from the ‘Cut Meat, Not Trees’ Campaign to encompass all aspects of the food we eat, such as packaging and transportation.
Gibraltar is really taking Meat Free Day seriously, and it could easily be the first country in the world who embraces the day in its entirety – just another feather in the global hat for the Rock.
Excuses, excuses and fear
Most non-meat eaters know that the biggest obstacle of World Meat Free Day is convincing people they can actually go a whole day without meat.
Many meat eaters have visions of vegans and vegetarians as people who just eat lettuce and tomato all day. This is very bizarre because ‘a veggie’ simply doesn’t eat meat, yet meat eaters eat more than meat with lettuce and tomato, so how does this vision come about?
Fear of trying something that is not part of their everyday norm can be overwhelming for some. Fear that they will lack protein – they won’t any more than they would if they didn’t eat a balanced diet already. Fear that they will lack option – they won’t any more than a fussy meat eater lacks. To satisfy those out there who think you can’t get everything you need from a meat-free diet, I will give you that, you can’t. But, it’s not as many things as you think it is, there is only one, B12 and you can take supplements for that.
Excuses such as they can’t afford to eat meat-free. Some people have this notion that eating meat-free is more expensive. I have yet to see a steak cost less than a can of chickpeas, even a posh brand chickpeas.
Meat is cheap at times, but it does not mean that’s a good thing. It’s cheap due to the industrialisation of meat products with hormones used to make animals grow faster and therefore the turnover of animal production greater. In addition, as “fast food” or products such as those that contain reconstituted chicken are cheap to produce.
Excuses such as ‘I don’t have the time’. Let’s face it, we are all becoming lazier in the kitchen, what with hectic work, social and family lives, more and more ready meals are creeping in. Well, non-meat eaters can be just as lazy as meat eaters and have a liking for junk food. Thankfully, the supermarkets in Gibraltar are constantly expanding their meat-free range, satisfying our taste buds and working into our busy lifestyles. It is just as easy to pop into Morrisons and pick up products from Quorn and Cauldron, two corporate supporters of World Meat Free Day, Linda McCarthy and Fry’s.
I do love the Morrisons own label ‘meat-free’ products. In fact, many of their own range products are also vegan. Vegan means no eggs, animal products or secretions like milk. These are delicious and I know a meat eater or two who will happily forgo their beef burger for a vegetable burger from this range.
Eroski also stock a range from Quorn, Caldron and Linda McCarthy. In addition, they have products from well-known UK brand, Good Life. Good Life’s Cashew and Parsnip burger is so tasty, you will never need to force-feed it to anyone, I know this because I was a self-proclaimed hater of parsnip. Eroski is also a supplier of Waitrose foods, between the two brands they also have their own range of meat-free products, both in the frozen and fresh meal sections. Local small supermarket Ramsons has an extensive range of meat-free products, including a large variety of Fry’s Meat Free range.
Here’s a tasty bonus tip, a tip that will leave your taste buds dancing and craving more: dairy-free ice-cream! Both Morrisons and Eroski stock it. It’s delicious, the variety of flavours is vast and it’s cruelty-free. With summer coming, these are truly a must-have in the freezer.
Another one is cheese. Cheese, cheese, cheese, from a time when we are toddlers, to school lunches, cubicle picnics – what I call eating at your work desk – cheese has featured heavily in our diets. As many people use the excuse of ‘I can’t live without cheese’ as a reason not to go plant-based, as people use the excuse not to eat meat. Stop, you don’t have to panic and think your cheese filled days are over, there is such a thing as vegan cheese.
Violife is a great brand, they do parmesan, cheddar, tomato and basil flavour, herb flavour, mozzarella, pizza, you name it, they pretty much have vegan cheesed it. In addition, it is so simple to make your own homemade cheeses; all you really need is a bowl to soak nuts in overnight, a blender, patience and imagination when it comes to creating your own flavours.
Last year saw Germany increase the number of plant-based products by 18%, the UK by 11% but neighbouring Spain only increased the number by 3%. I honestly think Gibraltar is more like Germany than Spain in this regard.
Give Meat Free Day a go, it’s only one day
Going meat-free is so easy if you just want to swap the usual frozen beef burger or pork sausages to a vegetable burger, quorn or tofu burger and sausages. However, if you are used to cooking your meals and not relying on ready meals or frozen products, the challenge of creating a meat-free dinner may feel a bit more daunting.
Trust me, if you can cook meat, you can create a meal without it. The only thing that limits you is your imagination and reluctance to try. If you are the “chef” in your household and fear you may have some resistance from family members, I suggest a couple of things.
Don’t tell them it has no meat in it, just like you didn’t tell them that pasta had no garlic or other food they “hate” in it.
Tell them and explain why you are cooking like that for the night and why it is important, stressing that you are trying to ensure the air they breathe and the environment they will grow old in is less damaged than it will be if the world continues to eat meat daily.
Tell them you will turn off wi-fi and they can cook their own meal if they do not want to eat yours.
World Meat Free Day may just be one day a year, but there is no human alive that cannot go without meat for a lot longer. Research, learn and make a pledge to try Conscience Eating today.
words | Eyleen Sheil