What’s so scary about a vegetarian future?
Whatever is happening to our food? Or to our meat, to be precise. Up until now meat – fatty, grisly, chewy meat, glistening in tallow – has played a central role on our plates. It has been accessible to everyone, everywhere and has become a food cheaper, quite literally, than chips. There have always been juicy steaks, BBQ ribs, greasy roasts and loins of lamb to keep our bellies satiated and our waistlines bulging.
But times they are a changing and meat is growing increasingly unfashionable as we have gained a deeper appreciation of the range of costs associated with meat-based diets. Not only is meat a risk factor for many of our own health problems but its production is one of the major contributors to global environmental degradation, climate change, fresh water scarcity and loss of biodiversity. Alongside these threats, there is also the small problem of our burgeoning population. By 2050 there will be another 2.5 billion mouths to feed on the planet and the traditional diet of blood and flesh will not feed them all. But if we start to be realistic about our population growth, the better we can focus on the challenge of feeding everyone.
So how can we feed 9 billion people on a shrinking planet? A growing number of scientists and researchers are already taking that question seriously. A report out last week from leading water specialists issued one of the starkest warnings yet about global food supplies, saying that the world’s population “may have to switch almost completely to a vegetarian diet over the next 40 years to avoid catastrophic shortages”. Meals spent gorging on succulent tender steaks, all too often taken for granted, are looking numbered then.
That almighty bastion of meat culture McDonald’s has taken heed and spearheaded plans to open vegetarian restaurants in India. OK, Maccy D’s may well be cheap junk food but there will always be people across the world who eat cheap junk food and at least it will now be cheap vegetarian junk food. And as the other fast food conglomerates follow its example, like Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut, people will soon be eating vegetarian rubbish everywhere without even noticing the difference. But whether it’s a Maccy D’s veggie burger, artificial meat grown in a lab or local seasonal vegetables – its got to be good news.
Good news for the planet, us veteran vegetarians and of course the animals. But not so good if you’re a diehard meat eater who can’t get by without devouring a whole corpse at every meal. But as meals are turning more verdant by the day and the future is vegetarian, red-blooded carnivores should realise that it won’t be long before it’s either the lush veggie option for dinner or going to bed on an empty stomach.
Before all you meat devourers despair perhaps you should think about what is really in it for you. Try to look beyond the next meal to the long term and be honest about whether a vegetarian future really is as scary as it sounds. Following a vegetarian diet that is cholesterol-free, bursting in cancer fighting antioxidants and low in those bad saturated fats and calories can bring you a whole host of benefits that go way beyond animal rights. There’s no great scary mystery about vegetarian food, it’s only delicious, nutritious food sizzling in dividends.
Given that we are living longer, wouldn’t you prefer to enjoy those extra years in good health with a stronger, more energetic and attractive body? As meat becomes more scarce it will become prohibitively expensive, out pricing the proverbial chips, so vegetarian food could well be the only affordable food available. And if lab-reared in vitro meat tastes just as textured and succulent as farm-reared intensive meat, there really is no good reason not to embrace the dazzling developments of today’s technology if you can’t even taste the difference. But it may save someone else going hungry or claw back another species from the brink of extinction or turn climate temperature down a notch. Does it really sound all that bad?
It can be said with considerable confidence that a vegetarian future really could offer an answer to many of today’s uncertainties that affect us all – economically, socially and environmentally. As it stands the future couldn’t be gloomier. The forecasts are all the same – food instability, floods and global hunger. Just as long as you are not one of the billion people who are starving, right? But what if you were one of those billion and what if your children and future generations are less fortunate?
Exploring the possibilities to rise to these challenges is the only way we can have a chance of addressing the uncertainties. Why not take that deep breath and consider for one moment a very real option that could present a future that holds more promise to those to come in a world that has not been desecrated beyond recognition? If thinking realistically about our place in the future means contemplating a vegetarian diet, that can feed everyone and make the world a place worth living in, it really shouldn’t be that scary.Tagged in: Burger King, climate change, junk food, KFC, mcdonald's, vegan, vegetarian
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