Ethical eating

Vegan, vegetarian or conscious meat eater? What we choose to eat can have profound effects on not only our health, but also our environment and the animals we share it with. Green World asked representatives from three organisations to take part in a three-way debate advocating the different lifestyles

Green World



by Jimmy Pierson, spokesperson for the Vegan Society


We live in a society that routinely exploits animals for food, clothing and entertainment - highly profitable industries that inflict pain and suffering upon 60 billion non-human animals every year while also destroying our health and the planet.

By a twist of fate, we choose to share our homes in the Western world with dogs and cats, but kill and eat cows, chickens, pigs and sheep. Yet there is no difference between them - all animals have unique personalities, and want to live lives of freedom. This discrimination based on species is called speciesism, and lies at the heart of so many of the world's problems.

Many people, for example, are now going vegan to improve their health. We know from several major studies that the vegan diet is effective in preventing several cancers, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, strokes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Vegans also have lower rates of obesity than any other dietary group.

Going vegan is the single best thing any individual can do for the environment. Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of climate change, responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions (at least 14.4 per cent) than all global transport - cars, planes, trains, buses, boats, ships - combined.

It is also widely acknowledged the leading driver of deforestation, species extinction, habitat loss, water consumption, ocean dead zones and pollution. It's not just meat, either. Dairy production is every bit as environmentally destructive.

There is little doubt that in years to come, we will reflect on our use of animals as unthinkable, an era never to return to. Progress is being made in tackling other forms of oppression in our society - racism, sexism, homophobia - and now is the time for speciesism to be properly addressed.

Veganism is the ultimate protest against animal cruelty and exploitation. It's a vote for non-violence and compassion every mealtime, every single day.

If you knew that something as simple as a dietary change would end the suffering of thousands of sentient beings, radically improve your health and become, without question, your biggest contribution to preserving the planet, would you make it?




by Lynne Elliot, Chief Executive the Vegetarian Society


As a Green Party member, you have committed to making sure we look after the environment. Being vegetarian is a positive choice from an environmental perspective.

The facts speak for themselves. Not only does producing plant-based food use a lot less of the planet's resources, but vegetarian diets also produce lower greenhouse gas emissions than even those based on a low meat intake. Furthermore, excluding fish and seafood from your diet has a hugely beneficial effect on fish stocks and marine ecology.

Keeping some animals in our countryside can have positive benefits to biodiversity and our ecosystems, and can help provide a diet that appeals to more people. Including eggs and dairy in the diet, alongside plant-based foods, ensures a valuable source of protein and micronutrients.

When it comes to health, enjoying a nutritionally-balanced, natural, wholefood vegetarian diet is really where the focus needs to be. A higher proportion of plant protein (with high fibre and less saturated fat) is good for your heart, and a vegetarian diet also makes it easier to achieve your recommended five fruit and veg per day.

Choosing a vegetarian diet is easy - in fact, most meat-eaters may be surprised by the amount of vegetarian food they already eat in an average week. As being vegetarian is now part of the mainstream, you can continue to enjoy socialising and eating out as much as anyone else.

At the Vegetarian Society, we like to be realistic and practical about making the switch to plant-based eating. People aren't perfect, and the real world is a complex place. But that's exactly why going vegetarian is such a good idea. Simply put: everyone can do it - and easily stick to it. Collectively, this would have a huge - and lasting - positive impact on the


Conscious meat eating


by Tom Blunt, Field Officer at the Rare Breeds Survival Trust


Many people are of the opinion that we should not eat meat. However, eating meat from the right animals, kept under the correct conditions can have vast benefits to the environment, biodiversity and health.

Due to the economic cost of keeping livestock, it would not be viable to keep the livestock in the numbers we currently have if there was not an income received through eating them. Livestock plays a pivotal part in shaping our environment and are utilised to ensure the land is as productive as it can be. The hills of the UK are impracticable to be farmed to grow crops but are used for grazing; this utilises the land to produce a meat product. This links directly to conservation grazing, the increasing use of farm livestock as to manage valued habitats. This is the most natural way of ensuring the habitats are maintained. Using livestock to maintain the land then eating the produce is an extremely ethical way of meat production and benefits the environment greatly. If the demand for meat decreased, then the number of livestock used in this type of system is likely to also fall, and more manpower and machinery required to maintain the effect on the landscape.

The feeding of livestock using what is generally considered waste produce is, moreover, a common practice. This can be in the form of brewer's grain and unusable vegetables that can be fed to livestock, which reduces the waste and ensures all the produce has a value.

In terms of diet, there are arguments both for and against eating meat, but we believe it is important to eat meat in moderation. As population increases, it is only natural that the amount of meat required will also increase. This will require more resources to produce the meat, so utilising systems such as conservation grazing and feeding waste products can minimise the effect on the environment.

Since the Rare Breeds Survival Trust was founded in 1973, no native UK breed has become extinct. Although it may seem counter-intuitive to eat something rare, we have found that eating rare breed meat is a great way to support a breed-you have to ??eat it to keep it'. When breeding livestock, there will always be animals that are not bred from either because they have an undesired characteristic or they are surplus-although half of all calves are male, one male can mate with many females so breeders do not need all that are


Whether vegan, vegetarian or meat-eating, we all care about farm animal welfare. Here are a few current campaigns aiming to enhance our fellow creatures' lives


Labelling Matters

A joint effort from the Soil Association, Compassion in World Farming, the RSPCA and the World Society for?the Protection of Animals, this campaign is calling for a mandatory clear and honest method of production labelling for meat and dairy products across the European Union. Following on from the EU egg labelling regime, such a scheme would offer consumers information about how animals are kept, which, according to the campaign would also be fairer on farmers, improve the lives of farm animals and level the playing field for domestic


Save our Antibiotics

With the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria because the drugs have been so overused in both human medicine and farming, the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics, a coalition of health, medical, environmental and animal welfare groups, is calling for a fundamental change in our current farming model. Good hygiene, husbandry and housing, it says, must be prioritised to reduce the need for antibiotics in the first


Cage Free Capital

A campaign from Sustain, this one urges London boroughs, visitor attractions, arenas and stadia to ??turn their backs on cruelty' and serve only cage-free eggs. Notable attractions that have already taken action include the British Library, Tate Modern and Kew


Sustainable Fish Cities

Supported by an alliance of not-for-profit organisations, this campaign, which grew out of the 2012 London Olympics fish policy, calls for towns and cities to buy, serve, eat and promote only sustainable


Stop the Trucks

More than 20 animal rights organisations from across Europe are calling for an end to the long-distance transport of live animals, which can lead to exhaustion, dehydration, injuries, disease, and even death. The campaign says that meat should be transported instead and that live animal transportation must be limited to eight hours for mammals and four hours for poultry.