“Casa da Horta é uma associação, não é um restaurante” is the motto of this small organization located in Porto. If you have read the former article dedicated to Casa da Horta, then you already know that it consists of a cultural and environmental association with the purpose of creating local action in areas such as recycling and ethical food consumption. Every so often, they host a series of events of interest, being the last one a small debate on vegetarianism. The debate was organized by Pedro Jorge Pereira and was attended by six people, mostly vegetarians and vegans. This debate was carried out following the World Vegetarian Day on the 1st of October, and the main discussion point was the growth of vegetarianism over the years and its immediate positive and negative consequences.
While many people think that this sudden growth in the number of vegans and vegetarians over the world is a positive thing, there are many negative aspects surrounding this issue. It is true that it supposes less people contributing to the mass killing of animals and to companies profiting from slaughter and the use of animals as testing materials. And it is no surprise that this is done every day en masse as a result of industrialization. It was pointed out through the debate that while our grandparents only had meat, say, once a week, nowadays the demand is increasing every minute in order to feed all the population.
This is one of the many reasons for becoming vegetarian, along with ecological and health concerns. Indeed, the World Health Organization asserted that processed meat such as bacon and sausages are carcinogenic, directly involved in causing cancer in humans. They classify processed meat as a Group One carcinogen, along with cigarettes, asbestos and plutonium, meaning that each 50-gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. Similarly, Harvard researchers found meat to be directly linked to diabetes and cancer, as well as what is known as ‘white meat’ (chicken and turkey).
Regarding ecological matters, it has been demonstrated that animal raising and agriculture produces more greenhouse gases than the transportation sector, causing ocean dead zones and rainforest destruction in conjunction with other problems of pollution.
Nevertheless, it has been found that the increasing number of vegetarians is causing negative impacts too, especially in some areas of the world. One of the main concerns nowadays is the increase of the demand of vegetarian products such as quinoa. As a matter of fact, quinoa, an ingredient mainly cropped in Bolivia and Peru, is starting to become very popular globally. However, due to its success, its cost is starting to severely inflate and it is no longer affordable for most of the local community in Bolivia and Peru, followed by a drastic change in their health and food habits in consequence. Many organizations have started promoting the idea of growth of quinoa in other parts of the world to avoid this problem, but this is still in an ongoing debate and has not been fully achieved.
Nonetheless, the main concern in the debate was the reason behind the growth of vegetarianism. Many polls and surveys have proved an increase of vegetarianism and veganism among youngsters. In Britain, for instance, the number of vegans has raised by 360% in the last 10 years and by 500% in the US since 2014, being teenagers the predominant participants in this type of polls. The matter in question, then, is whether vegetarianism is growing thanks to an increase of awareness or simply as a trend among young people. During the debate many of the attendants agreed on the fact that vegetarianism has become some sort of fashion, causing teenagers to become vegetarians for no good reason. One of the main causes for this kind of behaviour is social media, a great source of influence nowadays. In fact, vegetarianism has become a trendy label to have and seeing people bragging about it on Instagram is not rare at all. An even further trend that is starting to be known since the beginning of 2017 is the so-called ‘flexitarianism’, that is, eating predominantly, but not strictly, vegetarian meals as an alternative to going full vegetarian or vegan. Therefore, we have to ask ourselves what will be the longevity of this trend. The participants of the debate claimed that, as a fashion label, many
people who join it do not really understand what being vegetarian means and the ethics and ideologies behind it. And, although this trend could increase awareness of the issues surrounding factory farming or animal testing, the idea that when this fashion ends the people who joined it will just as easily abandon it and start eating meat regularly again was strongly supported. However, we cannot reach a conclusion yet, since these changes are still ongoing. So what do you think? Will it last or will it pass?