Conscious Consumption - A New Trend?

24/11/2015 11:29 GMT | Updated 22/11/2016 10:12 GMT

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It is undeniable that more and more people are considering that their individual actions have an impact on wider society. The rise of ethical consumerism is real, and should not be underestimated, but there is still a long way to go.

Consumerism in that sense connotes material consumption. Consumption however, is also a word used to describe the act of eating and drinking. We are all consumers in that sense whether we choose to subscribe to the capitalist model of conspicuous consumption of superfluous material goods or not.

Consumption at this level is a basic human need - we all do it and thus if we want to consume ethically and for that change in behaviour to have the biggest impact we should consider altering our eating habits. If someone can make the moral decision to not shop at Tesco, Starbucks, or any of the other of the many, many, large law flouting conglomerates then why can't someone make the decision to stop eating animal products?

Pescetarians, vegetarians, and vegans are still very much taboo creatures. It is 'cool' to be an ethical consumer, but not at this base level. Phoebe and Jane who became known through a BBC documentary on activism are two animal rights activists on the hard-core end of the scale. They said something which I think is really pertinent when discussing that topic and that is that veganism is part of evolution. We are now at a stage in humanity where we no longer need to eat meat - in fact eating meat is pretty bad for us, and so why would we continue killing innocent animals when we don't need to? It is barbaric, and lazy, and that is how future generations will see it. We are now intelligent enough to know better.

Following on from this idea of the evolutionary process, should we be putting less pressure on ourselves to dive straight into veganism, but go through the process from meat eater to pescetarian, pescetarian to vegetarian, vegetarian to vegan. This would address the taboo in that it would be gently introducing people to conscious consumption. It wouldn't be an overnight change of behaviour that could seem quite daunting but a learning curve. By natural process the more people learn the further towards veganism they will naturally go. The stuff out there about food production and supply chains is pretty horrific.

When I look at why I still eat meat, as a conscious and ethical consumer, (or why I still occasionally pop into KFC despite them being on my blacklist) it is not out of lack of understanding for why I shouldn't be doing it, it is out of laziness and habit. From a young age the majority of us are taught that the main meal of the day is built around meat. That is the first isle we tend to head for in the supermarket. And we go to the supermarket because it is easier than going to local independent shops for each category of item as they have been forced out of the high street to the peripheries - but that is another issue.

To become some level of 'tarian' overnight you need to completely re-learn how to cook - and shock horror; none of us have time for that either. If it were a process, there would be less pressure on ourselves, and less guilt for the days where we really do not have time to put much thought into it and so we revert to our default steak, egg and chips. This is why meat-free-Mondays are such a fantastic phenomenon. On a Monday (pick a day of the week that fits with your schedule - not just one that has nice alliteration), make it a fun challenge for you and your family. Find a new recipe, and learn how to make a new dish that doesn't contain meat. Soon you may have such a repertoire of new yummy dishes you expand to two days, then three... you get the picture. It doesn't have to be that you are going without something; this kind of conscious consumption that we are talking about should remove that feeling that we get when vegans try to convert us. Our bacon walls go up.

I know if I have kept you interested this far into the article you will probably be thinking - why should I? Because that is how we are trained to think now; it is all about me. It isn't. One of the most convincing (albeit the least altruistic) reasons I have seen is the health benefits of becoming animal product free. We can get all of the nutrients we need and more from plants than what are in our processed, prepared, packaged, go-to foods. Protein does exist in numerous other places other than meat, calcium does exist in numerous other places than milk and cheese, etc. All of these natural plant food stuffs are also less likely to be injected with water or chemicals to bulk them out and increase their shelf life and size. They are also unlikely to have harmed an animal in the process.

Which brings me on to another reason to eat consciously - animal welfare. We are such a self-important species, and historically, this is why we are here today. But we are cleverer than that now. One of the things people have said to me when I float the idea of conscious consumption is 'but cavemen relied on meat' or something to that effect. Are we cavemen? Do we want to be cavemen? Aside from the fact that a caveman probably had to hunt for days, weeks, probably even months to get his hands on an animal to eat, thus his diet would have mainly been non-animal based items. We no longer need animals to suffer for us to have full stomachs, strong bodies, and healthy minds. Battery farms, and all the other inhumane ways we treat the animals we eat are not necessary. Why cause unnecessary suffering to something that has done no harm to us? This mass production of meat and huge scale farming is not only bad for the animals, but for our environment. Enter point three...

Climate change is real. Again and again, we are told that cattle farming to feed (in the main) the West's appetite for beef is the single biggest cause of climate change, yet it is the thing we are the least vocal about. Cow's faeces have a high percentage of methane which is not good for our atmosphere. But also, cows need open fields, and we are cutting down rainforest to accommodate them. This means that as well as putting more methane into the air, we are cutting down trees which are the most natural way to keep our air breathable for us - looping us back to health.

With meat free Mondays it appears this process may have already begun, but we need to make the term ethical consumption synonymous with the food we eat. The bottom line is if you want to be healthier, if you want to see less animal cruelty in the world, and if you want our environment to get better, not worse, you should embark on a journey of conscious consumerism. If you care about the future of humanity, of what you are leaving for future generations, start your journey today. It may take weeks, months, or years for you to get to veganism, or you may just park up at vegetarianism, but despite the irony of it, Tesco got one thing right: every little helps.