By Ben Habib, Lecturer in Politics at La Trobe University, Albury Wodonga and member of WATCH (Wodonga & Albury Towards Climate Health)
In my first year at university there was an award on offer at my boarding college called the “Bachelor of Applied Eating”, which I attained by consuming everything on the menu at the local McDonalds restaurant in three hours. It is funny how the journey toward giving up meat can begin in the strangest places.
I am a vegetarian and have been so for over ten years. The choice to do so was my “new millennium resolution”, inspired by the example of a good friend. My last meat meal was a lamb souvlaki at the Falls Festival in Lorne on New Years Eve 1999. I can still taste that succulent lamb off the spit to this day.
I loved meat, so why did I choose to go vego? The Bachelor of Applied Eating was illustrative of my lifestyle as a young adult, heavy on booze and bad food. My health was poor and I was overweight. It was time to make a change and prioritise my well-being.
Numerous scientific studies have shown that vegetarians are less prone to lifestyle-related illnesses like cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Treatment of these diseases places a huge financial burden on our society. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A well-balanced vegetarian diet can provide all the protein and nutrients needed to fuel a healthy lifestyle and reduce the associated social burden.
Vegetarianism also introduced me to a whole new world of creative cooking. Instead of a slab of meat garnished with some veggies or salad, I create visually spectacular meals of great flavour and texture, based on delicious recipes from all over the world.
A vegetarian diet is also a cheap way to eat. As you may have noticed, meat is expensive relative to fruit and vegetables. Going vego is a good way to eat well on a tight budget.
Yet there are deeper reasons for my vegetarianism that extend beyond personal well-being. We live in an era of climate change, population pressures and rising energy and food prices. In this environment our consumption choices matter. A vegetarian diet is less greenhouse gas emissions intensive, less water thirsty, and less energy hungry than a meat-based diet.
A pure vegetarian diet is not for everyone, but the positive benefits to self and society of reducing meat consumption are well worth the effort.