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An A-Z of the environment & issues

by Peter Hatswell

 

 

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Vegetarian?

 

 

 

Vegetarian Week 2012

Mon 21 - Sun 27

Vis for Vegetarianism

 

Some people believe that this is the most sustainable pattern for the world population because direct human consumption of vegetable matter compared with eating indirectly fed farm animals, makes best use of sun, rain and fertilizers.

 

The average UK citizen eats an average of 82 grams per day of protein, 25-50% more than recommended by the World Health Organisation. About 50 grams of this comes from meat.

In the ‘First World’ we now have machines to do most of the heavy work for which our ancestors needed a large daily dose of protein to achieve. Meat thus became part of what we know as a ‘healthy diet’ and for particularly active people, such as children, it is still probably useful if they are to grow to their full potential. For the rest of us, with less hectic lifestyles, vegetables can provide all we need and avoid those damaging accumulations of fat as vividly displayed in the Morgan Spurlock film ‘Supersize Me’.

Cattle, pigs and sheep also produce large quantities of the greenhouse gas methane as well as requiring large amounts of energy to feed them, transport them and prepare them for the table. However some do play an important part in the shaping of the countryside, being able to forage in areas unsuitable for growing other crops and improving the soil as they go.

So how are we to judge what vegetables to buy and how much to eat bearing in mind that we cannot always predict our precise needs? A good starting point is to use seasonal, locally grown quality produce that has not seen too much intensive farming and processing. This should ensure that it contains good levels of vitamins and minerals, often a characteristic of those grown in organically treated soil. Your body will take some time to adjust so it is probably best to start slowly - say 1 day/week for a month then 2 days etc. If you feel no ill effects and you enjoy experimenting with new flavours, you are probably doing yourself and the planet a power of good.

So how much could this change of diet achieve? Experts believe it could be the equivalent of driving up to 5000 miles less in a year, a saving of £300 worth of gas or a return flight to Europe per person.

Peter Hatswell

For further reading, and recipes, go to Channel4 site (scroll down for links) and visit the BBC site.

 

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