World Vegetarian Day
It's estimated that there are 1.5 billion vegetarians on the planet today. Not all of those people are vegetarian by choice. Some don't have access to meat, and for others it's simply too expensive. But for a lot of people – approximately 75 million worldwide – vegetarianism is a lifestyle choice. These vegetarians often choose a veggie diet for ethical, environmental or health reasons. World Vegetarian Day, which takes place on 1 October every year, promotes and raises awareness of the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle.
What exactly is a vegetarian diet?
A vegetarian eats no meat at all, including white meat (like chicken, turkey, etc.) or fish. Some people follow a semi-vegetarian diet. For example a 'pescatarian' is someone who eats no meat, but does eat fish and seafood. Other people call themselves 'flexitarian' – they are mainly vegetarian but allow themselves an occasional meat dish. Vegans, on the other hand, don't eat or use any animal products at all – for example they don't eat eggs, cheese or honey.
Why cut out meat?
Many vegetarians and vegans choose not to eat meat or animal products for ethical and environmental reasons. Often they are unhappy about the bad treatment of animals. Industrial farming for meat, milk and eggs often means that animals don't have enough space to move around, they don't have enough contact with other animals and they never go outdoors.
Many people are worried about the effects of meat and fish production on the environment. Livestock farming produces more carbon emissions than the emissions from cars, planes, ships and all other transport put together. In addition to this, it uses a huge amount of the planet's land and water resources. Many people see plant-based diets as the only sustainable option for the future.
Is vegetarianism healthier than a meat-based diet?
Some people choose a vegetarian lifestyle to improve their general health. According to the Vegetarian Society, a meat-free diet could help reduce the risk of certain cancers and the possibility of heart disease, as well as other health problems such as obesity and high blood pressure.
Of course, being vegetarian doesn't simply mean cutting out certain foods from your diet. To ensure that your body gets all the protein, vitamins, etc. that it needs, it's important to replace animal products with a good variety of foods like nuts, tofu, lentils, seeds, grains, cereals and vegetables.
Teens and vegetarianism
It seems that young people are among the most likely to turn towards a vegetarian diet, and research shows that many more people are likely to become vegetarian in the future. A lot of teenagers decide to try out a veggie diet, and for many this becomes a lifelong choice.
So whether or not you decide to cut out meat completely, or reduce the amount of meat you eat, there are certainly a lot of delicious plant-based meals to try. What's your favourite vegetarian dish?
Worksheets and downloads
Do you eat meat? Would you consider eating less meat or no meat at all?