One of the main problems with veganism and vegetarianism is prominent vegans and vegetarians. Read opinion pieces about the merits of veganism, listen to lectures preaching the virtues of vegetarianism, and you will likely encounter a hefty dose of self-righteousness and an overwhelming cry for purity. By condemning all forms of purportedly immoral meat consumption and arguing that one must cease all such consumption, prominent activists neglect the wider audience and hinder progress. Those calling for all-or-nothing approaches to meat are often counterproductive, excluding the very people they should seek to beguile.
Reducetarianism is different. The reducetarian movement, created by fallible vegetarian Brian Kateman, mitigates some of the core problems of the all-or-nothing approaches. The off-putting call for purity is absent, as the movement celebrates all individuals attempting to cut down on meat, regardless of success. Reducetarianism promotes incremental shifts to the consumption of meat, as opposed to the wholesale cessation, which not only removes the individual pressure of the all-or-nothing approach but also ensures greater collective success. It is a point seldom appreciated by purists, but convincing a chunk of the population to limit meat consumption is far more productive than convincing a tiny proportion to stop eating meat altogether.
Reducetarianism utilises the same tactics as other successful movements calling for the limited consumption of meat. National Vegetarian Week, Meatless Mondays and Veganuary have all proved popular with the uninitiated precisely because they challenge the idea of meat consumption without adopting an all-or-nothing approach. These movements reject absolutism, but paradoxically ensure that a hefty proportion of participants quit meat altogether. The campaigns act as a gateway into further dietary shifts, seeking incremental change at first and incentivising greater changes later.
My own conversion from meat eating serves as a good example. I took the Veganuary challenge in 2015 at the behest of my persuasive girlfriend. Prior to Veganuary, I had never considered cutting-down on meat. My dad comes from Welsh farming stock - he still says, perhaps in jest, that my diet is a betrayal of my ancestry - and I had few vegetarian or vegan friends. I was one of the uninitiated. I accepted the challenge as an experiment, assuming my participation would be temporary. I had no intention whatsoever of adopting any long-term changes. During the month of January 20165, however, I learnt about the environmental and nutritional effects of meat consumption. Merely accepting the challenge opened a natural curiosity to learn more. I read books, watched documentaries, and talked with folks online. I started to question my choices and confront future decisions.
The gentle call for reduction led to the long-term cessation from meat consumption. I was beguiled by the Veganuary campaign - cynics might even say tricked. I failed to sustain veganism, to be sure, but I haven't touched meat since 2015. And it seems I was not alone in my conversion. According to Veganuary, 67% of participants in 2017 decided to maintain a long-term plant-based diet. The Meatless Mondays and the National Vegetarian Week campaigns boast similar success.
The achievements of these campaigns stem from the rejection of the all-or-nothing approach. They are inclusive, rather than exclusive, offering guidance to those struggling and sympathy to those who fail. There is little self-righteousness, at least not from the folks running the organisations, and no allegiance to purity. The campaigns ask, rather than demand, that folks simply attempt to cut down on meat and offer information on how to do so, alongside some cracking recipes. And the results dictate that, prompted by the rejection of the all-or-nothing approach, plenty of participants quit consuming meat altogether.
The course of action for all those who believe in animal welfare and environmentalism should be fighting for incremental change, raising awareness and promoting inclusivity. Demanding the wholesale abolition of meat is utopian and idealistic, but requests for small dietary adjustments are reasonable and can lead to further gains. The onus should be on achieving the greatest overall impact. By seeking incremental change rather than the all-or-nothing, by offering encouragement rather than condemnation, movements against the mass consumption of meat stand far greater chance of securing an ethical, viable and sustainable future.