At a time when ecological issues are more topical than ever, many citizens are wondering how to mobilize on their own scale. A simple and applicable answer to everyday life is to adopt a more responsible diet. But how to trigger a change of habit? By Salomé Tenenbaum, co-founder of the startup Vegg’up (*). One way to quickly reduce its environmental impact is to adopt a diet that is less rich in animal protein, including a less meaty diet. Indeed, livestock farming is responsible for a huge share of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions: in 2013, the FAO stated that 14. 5% of emissions are induced by this sector, more than the transport sector.
Livestock is also extremely resource-intensive: for example, it takes up to 15,000 times more water to produce one kilo of beef than one kilo of wheat (direct and indirect consumption). Not to mention a totally vegetarian or vegan diet, reducing meat consumption is therefore a way to do something for the planet, and to participate in an overall reduction in demand, and therefore in supply.
When we talk about vegan food, many associate it with the “healthy” trend that came straight from the United States, and with a fashion more than a social phenomenon. Yet, after having been a sign of wealth during the glorious 30 years, meat consumption per capita in France is tending to decrease structurally, according to a Xerfi study published in April 2017. It is estimated that 25 to 30% of the population is flexitaristic: this neologism refers to consumers who sustainably reduce their meat consumption, eating it only once or twice a week, by adopting vegetarian or vegan meals more regularly. Far from being a niche market, vegetable food is becoming widespread in France, for ethical (animal welfare, ecology), health and economic reasons (meat is an expensive food).
In France, the flexitarian approach seems to be more accepted than the vegan regime, which is considered de facto militant or even extremist. It can be seen that this phenomenon is not repeated in other countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom or Germany. In these countries, the vegan regime has become almost commonplace and widespread. In 2017, 6% of the American population claimed to be vegan, compared to only about 1% in France. Worldwide, Google searches for the word “vegan” tripled between 2012 and 2017.
As with many social phenomena, France lags behind other developed countries because it is more conservative. The recent actions denouncing violence in slaughterhouses, or the destruction of butcher shops, have an ambiguous result: while they have the merit of raising awareness, they are also very radical and divisive. Coupled with these punching actions that sometimes raise awareness in a violent way, a benevolent and positive approach is desirable to bring about change. Such an approach can help everyone to take a step towards vegetable food in their own right. Because in France, where gourmet dishes very often contain meat, becoming vegetarian, or even vegan, may simply seem unattainable for a large part of the population. A more playful and positive approach should be encouraged, so that a reduction in meat consumption is not seen as a renunciation, but rather as an improvement of our daily lives. The individual springBy going from 7 meals a week containing meat to 4, a consumer actually has a huge impact on the planet. But for this change to be sustainable, it must bring a benefit to the individual himself, and not just for a cause greater than himself.
Adopting a more environmentally friendly diet can be a driving force, but it can also be said that it is not just one person who will make the difference. In general, more responsible behaviours are adopted in a sustainable way when they have a more direct impact on a consumer’s life: saving money, improving health, etc. Highlighting the delicacy of vegetarian or vegan dishes, the richness of the foods that can be discovered, and their health benefits, are all positive elements that allow change to continue and have an impact on a larger scale. Gluttony and well-being are more down-to-earth, but above all more concrete drivers. However, the impact is collective: 5,400 meatless meals save CO2 emissions equivalent to 20 flights from Paris to New York. It is now undeniable that vegetable food has a positive impact on our planet.
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