Anyone who has ever publicly announced themselves a ‘flexitarian’ will be familiar with the skeptics who are quick to denounce you as a vegetarian with commitment issues or having your bacon and eating it.
But as flexitarianism (being a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat and fish) grows in popularity - Quorn Foods has accredited their 19% growth in the first half of 2017 to the diet - it seems it is time to take it more seriously.
So here are six things to say to naysayers to explain this part-time approach to consuming meat.
1. Flexitarianism is fluid.
For the critics of flexitarianism this might look like a half-hearted approach to becoming vegetarian (or vegan) that allows you to pick and choose when your principles apply. But there are lots of different reasons why people may choose to become flexitarian, and not all of them are ethical.
And because there are no hard and fast rules to the diet, according to ‘The Flexitarian’ - ”some will have a meat-free meal once a week while others will only eat meat on rare occasions” - it’s about what suits you, not keeping up appearances around the bacon aisle.
2. People are flexitarian for financial reasons.
Anyone who is trying to pinch the pennies on their supermarket shop will know that meat is often an expensive addition to the shopping trolley, and this is increasingly reflected in changing UK shopping habits as more people go flexitarian to help protect their wallet.
According to YouGov research 29% of Brits are now eating less meat because it is more expensive than it was a year ago, and 25% say that they simply cannot afford to buy as much meat as they did this time last year.
3. People are flexitarian to improve their health.
As more and more people adopt a flexitarian diet, studies are starting to look at how these reduced-meat or semi-vegetarian diets are impacting our national health, and it’s good news.
They found that a diet which reduces or even excludes meat and animal produce in favour of vegetables, fruit and grains could reduce your chance of becoming obese by as much as 50%. That means that choosing to be flexitarian is a great way to try and improve your health without cutting out meat altogether.
4. People are flexitarian for environmental reasons.
With a third of all land worldwide used to grow feed for livestock, there is no disputing that the meat industry has a huge impact on the environment, so flexitarians are starting to address this.
YouGov research showed that the environment is indeed a factor is some people choosing to reduce their meat intake, with the proportion of people who think that we should all eat less meat, in order to help the environment, increasing from 28% in 2015 to 34% in 2017.
Mark Driscoll, head of food at Forum for the Future, told HuffPost UK: “From a sustainability perspective, this is a welcome sign. Research has shown that widespread adoption of vegetarian or vegan diets could lower carbon emissions by 63% and 70% respectively.”
5. The flexitarian community is making a difference.
While we often think of vegetarianism as a black and white issue, small changes can make a difference, too. Especially as they are likely to be more sustainable when you aren’t overcommitting yourself.
In a blog for HuffPost UK, Amanda Sourry, President of Foods at Unilever, said: “[Flexitarians] are proof that you can make a difference - they are the people eating one less beef burger a week, to save the equivalent amount of water as not showering for 2 months.”
6. This is no longer a niche community.
If you’re still feeling like flexitarians are commitment-phobes with a false sense of moral superiority to boot, then you should at least acknowledge that this is no longer a small community of people.
In fact more than one third of people in the UK now identify as part-time veggies, research by the Forum for the Future found, and predicted that this number was set to grow by 10% in 2017 alone.
Not only that but attitudes are shifting as over half of Brits (56%) no longer believe meat is a necessary component of a satisfactory meal.