Why would I give up eating meat?
Why would I give up eating meat? Good question. My brother’s been a vegetarian for over 40 years, ever since he started preparing meals for himself, reflecting his love and concern for animals. And my daughter also gave up meat some years ago out of concern for our environment, quoting impressive statistics on land and water use and the contribution to greenhouse gases due to farming animals:
- Livestock production is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, 44% of which is in the form of methane, 28 times more potent that carbon dioxide.
- Half of the world’s cereal crop is grown for animals, rather than humans.
- It takes over 15,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of beef but only 4000 litres for 1kg of pulses and 300 litres for 1 kg of vegetables.
Yet, still I was consuming meat.
I have been concerned that our society is not doing enough to combat climate change and believe that where politicians have been slow to act, individual citizens can (and should) take action. As Christians, we also have a God-given responsibility to care for Creation so our individual actions in caring for the environment become acts of faith and collectively we can literally change the world for the better. The catalyst for my step away from meat was Lent Event. Each year I participate and have gone without coffee or chocolate or wine for the six week period. In 2020 I decided I would give up eating meat for Lent. What I discovered was that it was not giving up eating meat which was the challenge – it was giving up cooking it!
I’m neither a “foodie” nor an adventurous cook though I do usually prepare meals from scratch. Cooking is a necessary chore for me and food is fuel for my body so I guess there was a predictability to my culinary repertoire and meat dishes were a stubborn habit – despite the fact that I’ve been a member of the Miranda Community Garden since its inception over 10 years ago and have learned a lot about growing and preparing vegetables. My challenge was to replace the old favourites like spag bol and chilli con carne with other meals that wouldn’t be overly difficult or time-consuming or use a hundred unfamiliar ingredients. I discovered easy vegetarian recipes for Italian-style meals and chilli without carne which had great flavours and I didn’t feel I was missing out on anything. Chickpea and vegie curries are great (and easy) and beans and lentils can be added to soups and other dishes to give a protein and textural boost. (I used tinned varieties: have yet to try soaking the dried ones.)
One of the more challenging aspects of this change of habit was the fact that my husband had not made the same decision! Fortunately, he’ll eat anything so he was quite happy to try the new offerings though on occasion I would have the vegie version while he had the meat version from the freezer. Wednesdays were the main problem. Hubby shops and cooks dinner on Wednesdays and he has only one cooking method: barbequeing! What to do? Vegie kebabs are good (but too fiddly for him) so this is when we tried out “fake meat”. This could take the form of a supermarket-bought vegie burger or even one of the synthetic meat products and while some of the varieties I tried were better than others, it was usually to do with flavour preferences rather than because they were inedible.
After six weeks, I was still having to plan ahead more consciously than in the past but I had no yearning for meat and was enjoying the new flavours. Since then? I have not stayed totally meat-free but I have certainly reduced my meat consumption, eating it on perhaps two or three occasions per week. We now have vegetarian dishes regularly and even when we do have meat, it is not the main ingredient of the meal. I need to learn more about cooking fish dishes but for now I enjoy my low-meat diet and love my vegies. Perhaps accompanied by a glass of wine and followed by a piece of chocolate?
While there is a tendency to think, “How can one person reducing their meat consumption affect anything?” – the Synod’s Climate Strategy and its various task groups have the potential to involve thousands of people and if each individual makes changes to their daily habits we can change the world indeed.
Pumpkin and Chickpea Curry
- 1 tbsp vegie oil
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 1 tbsp red curry paste (or to taste)
- 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
- 600g pumpkin, peeled and chopped
- 230g eggplant, chopped
- 400ml coconut milk
- 250ml vegie stock
- 1 cup basil or coriander leaves
Heat oil in large saucepan, add onion and red curry paste and cook for 2 mins or until onion softens.
Add chickpeas, pumpkin, eggplant, coconut milk and vegie stock.
Simmer gently until pumpkin and eggplant are soft.
Add basil/coriander and serve with steamed rice and lime wedges.