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But the truth is that these bloody burgers aren’t for me. They may be vegetarian, but they aren’t designed to preach to a hungry choir, but to cater for those on the fence. In the past two years, the number of part-time vegetarians in the UK has swelled by 2.2 million. More and more people are looking to embrace a “flexitarian” or “reductarian” lifestyle, with half the population only eating meat three or four times a week.
Between the rise of documentaries such as Cowspiracy and What the Health, and social movements like Veganuary and Meat Free Mondays, more and more thought is being put into what’s being put onto our plates. For an increasingly health-conscious public, concerns that eating too much meat is bad for you is the main motivator for those who are either already reducing their meat intake or are interested in doing so. This perhaps comes as no surprise after England’s former chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, claimed that cutting the UK’s consumption of animal products by 30 per cent would prevent 18,000 premature deaths each year.
After health and weight loss, concerns for both animal welfare and the environment are the next most common reasons for cutting down on meat. A wealth of research has found that switching to a plant-based diet could help reduce the effects of global warming, with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation estimating in 2013 that livestock production accounts for 14.5 per cent of global gas emissions. What’s more, the meat industry takes up 77 per cent of the world’s agricultural land, despite only contributing to 17 per cent of the world’s calories. This is not to mention the impacts on deforestation, water pollution, biodiversity loss and land degradation.
It’s easy for me to dismiss bleeding veggie burgers as being gross – a bit too close to the bone, as it were – and claim that no vegetarian would want to eat them. That may or may not be the case, but it doesn’t really matter what I or any other vegetarian or vegan thinks. If these bloody burgers are what persuades meat eaters to give veggie food a go, after accidentally stumbling across them in the meat aisle of a supermarket, then it’s a good thing for everybody.