What did you have for breakfast this weekend? Did you sit down to some bacon, a roll on sausage, or was it a fry-up? Well if you had any of those on your plate over the past couple of days, then you might find it harder to last 31 days without any meat or fish. And that's what Friends of the Earth are asking us to do as part of their Meat Free Campaign, one that ultimately wants to show us that it is possible to reduce how much meat we're eating.
I grew up in a family who all ate meat, but our meat consumption was never really that high. We ate chicken, sausages and mince, but there wasn't even a turkey on that table every Christmas. We never sat down to eat lamb chops or duck either, but it always seems to be the fact I've never eaten a steak that shocks people the most.
I was 13 years old when I decided to become vegetarian. My family were fully behind the idea from the start; even though I'm sure they all thought it was just another passing phase. There have been a few hiccups over the years where I've eaten a bit of fish at a family event, and there was one occasion when I tasted wood pigeon that an ex-boyfriend ordered in a fancy restaurant. Although for 99% of the past 14 years, I've been completely vegetarian.
The main reason I stopped eating meat in the first place, was that I simply didn't and still don't agree with killing animals for food. But at the end of last year, I started looking into the dairy industry more and made the decision to become vegan. It felt hypocritical that i wouldn't eat a beef burger, yet seemed completely content with eating ice cream knowing that dairy cows are regularly given hormones, and live most of their life standing on a concrete floor. The majority of them are also fed a diet that's high in protein and even consists of other dead farm animals in a bid to make them produce a higher yield of milk. Then there are the 32 million hens that are producing eggs in the UK, half of which are kept in battery style cages just so people like me could enjoy some scrambled egg for breakfast.
It wasn't just the treatment and killing of animals though, I couldn't quite get my head around the fact there's children dying around the world of hunger, yet we use one third of the world's cereal to feed factory farmed animals. Then there are all the messages about reducing your carbon footprint, even though producing animals for food is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions there is.
I'm not going to pretend that becoming vegan was easy. I recently spent my first Easter without Crème Eggs, and when everyone at work was tucking into cake pops at an event recently, all I could do was watch on from a distance. But that's not what Friends of the Earth want you to do; they just want you to give up meat and fish during this campaign, and follow a vegetarian diet.
Before you begin to worry about what you'll eat, it's a lot easier than you would think. All big supermarket chains carry a variety of vegetarian friendly food including mince, sausages and even ready meals. I'm not going to pretend that vegetarian bacon tastes remotely like the real thing, but generally speaking most vegetarian products are great. It'll also give you more chance to eat vegetables, and become a little bit more experimental with your cooking.
Even if you've already eaten meat this month, or don't think you could last the full 31 days that Friends of the Earth are hoping you'll do, then don't give up yet. Why not try it for a week, or even order a vegetarian meal next time you're out for dinner? The campaign is all about showing people it's possible to cut back on how much meat and fish we eat, and if people make a few simple changes then Meat Free May has been a success.