Video: Can reducetarians and vegans be friends?
Reducetarians aspire to eat less meat. Their aim is progress, not perfection, and this has drawn the ire of many vegans.
The goal of the reducetarian movement is a society where people consume less meat, dairy and eggs. Reducitarians and flexitarians come to mind when you think of meatless mondays and Mark Bittman’s “Vegan before 6” concept. Graham Hill, founder of treehugger.com was calling for a similar change through his “weekday vegetarian” concept.
But reducetarians make a lot of vegans see red. Why? Because it’s hard to imagine why anyone who is aware of the devastating cruelty and environmental damage caused by factory farming would advocate anything less than complete abolition of these practices.
The problem of recidivism
However, when we look at vegans’ rate of recidivism – there are more ex-vegans than vegans (10% vs. 1-2%)- it’s pretty clear that veganism has a growth problem. Most people cite health (poorly planned diet) and social pressure as instrumental in quitting a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Many people go vegan or vegetarian and find themselves unable to maintain their diet. They feel like failures when they aren’t able to follow a perfect vegan diet, and so they give up entirely and return to their former eating habits.
Of course, I would love to see the world go vegan. And I think it will happen one day. But in the meantime, I see some major advantages in encouraging people to eat fewer animal products.
The rise of reducetarians
Unlike incremental welfare changes, such as “humane meat” movements, reducetarian-oriented diets have identified consuming animal products as the problem we need to address. And reducetarians are doing what they can to eliminate that problem, one meal at a time.
In that respect, they have a good deal in common with ethical vegans, and they are objectively reducing animal suffering while improving their health and the health of the planet.
We can make veganism the goal without demonizing those who fall short. A lifelong reducetarian does far more for animals and their rights than someone who tries a vegan diet for a few weeks and then quits. I hope as vegans we can embrace people who recognize the evils of factory farming, and encourage them, rather than simply denouncing their shortcomings.
I grew up in a meat-reducing family. Our family of four consumed about 1 pound of meat per person per week. This number is far short of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimate of approximately 5 pounds per person. It’s hard to believe we were eating 1/5 the US average!
I’m pretty certain growing up (more or less) reducetarian made it much easier for me to go vegan later in life. For some people, just learning that meat doesn’t need to be the centrepiece of your meal is a revelation. I’d love to see people go vegan overnight, but a gradual transition can make the change more sustainable, and I think it’s important to support people who are moving in the right direction.