Is a new word inspiring people to eat less meat? “Reducetarianism”

“I’d be vegetarian, but I like meat too much,” lament many people around the world.

A new movement has hit the scene, and it’s called reducetarianism. This campaign encourages people to reduce the amount of meat they eat without prescribing strict rules. It’s not a new idea … but it’s a new word, and words are powerful.

One of the most successful reducetarian-esque campaigns to get people to eat less meat is Meatless Mondays, started in the United States and spread around the world. The idea is to avoid eating meat on Mondays, replacing meat dishes with protein-heavy plant dishes.

“Let’s start reducing our meat consumption, both for our health and for the environment,” Or Benjamin, operations manager of Meatless Mondays Israel, told From the Grapevine. “Let’s start with one day a week.”

vegetables and vegetable proteins on a chopping block with a panSoybeans, chickpeas and tofu can have as much protein as meat. (Photo: sergeyshibut/Shutterstock)

“There are some ideas that make such obvious sense that one wonders why they haven’t become universally adopted by now. Reducetarianism is one of them,” Lawrence Krauss, author of “The Physics of Star Trek” and “A Universe from Nothing,” said. “Without committing to a potentially difficult and disruptive wholesale change of diet and lifestyle, reducetarianism makes sense for all of us.”

After all, eating less meat can decrease obesity and some forms of cancer, lower a person’s environmental footprint, increase the planet’s biodiversity and help the environment.

“Every single plant-based meal you have is going to make a difference,” Brian Kateman, head of the Reducetarian Foundation, told From the Grapevine. It’s like exercise: just because you decide to start exercising doesn’t mean you need to exercise every day. Plus, if the average person ate 10 percent less meat, that would have a much bigger effect on the world than if people who only ate a pound or two of meat a year went full-on vegetarian, Kateman explained.

According to Kateman, many people mistakenly believe that eating meat is all or none: you either become vegetarian, or keep buying buckets of chicken every night.

“The reducetarian solution is the same one I came to after falling off the meat wagon so many times,” said Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine.

meatless portobello mushroom steaks with mashed cauliflowerA steak dinner, vegetarian style. (Photo: Sarah F. Berkowitz)

“We change history through the surprising power of small acts that unite people in movements for social change,” said Dacher Keltner, co-director of the Greater Good Science Center.

The Reducetarian Foundation is trying to spread the word by writing books, planning documentaries and conducting research on which messages about eating less meat are most effective. Thirty thousand people visit the foundation’s website every month, and 2,500 people have taken a pledge to try eating less meat for 30 days. But the actual movement is far bigger: most reducetarians – people trying to eat less meat – never even heard of the word “reducetarian.”

“It’s never been easier, nor more important, to reduce our meat consumption,” said Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection for The Humane Society of the United States. “Millions of Americans are becoming reducetarians because it’s a great way to look and feel better while also helping protect animals and our planet.”

fresh vegetarian sushi rollsAfter a few rounds of practice with rolling, spreading and neat slicing, you can whip up your own fresh vegetarian sushi. (Photo: White78/Shutterstock)

Movements like this are sparking more and more coverage in the media. The best-known of these campaigns, aforementioned Meatless Mondays, is frequently led by celebrities. Sir Paul McCartney, for instance, gets the word out about Meatless Mondays in the U.K.

Miki Haimovich, a popular former TV news host, chairs Meatless Mondays Israel, and she’s been enormously successful. According to Benjamin, the operations manager of Meatless Mondays Israel, most people you stop on the streets in Israel have heard of the movement, and 25% have actually joined it.

“Israel is really a world leader in the whole trend toward plant-based eating,” Benjamin said. Indeed, Tel Aviv, Israel, is considered by many to be the top destination in the world for vegetarians.

That these changes are occurring on a global level indicates that the idea is striking a chord; that moderate changes can produce massive results for ourselves and our planet. “By eating less meat, you’ll be doing your body, your planet and your kids’ future a favor,” said author Daniel H. Pink. “And you’ll be proving once again that small steps can take us long distances.”



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