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To most, consuming less meat makes plain sense. Everyone knows how animals in New Zealand are treated. “Of course, I understand why,” they say, taking another bite of chicken sandwich. “I just love meat too much.” Welcome to the world of the vegetarian. Alternatively, you love all animals – the good, the bad, and the tasty – but don’t know how to change. October is World Vegetarian Month and a good time to discuss why vegetarianism is a choice you should make now, rather than later.
New Zealand’s first-ever national debate against factory farming in September revealed what we already know: the simple transition to a vegetarian lifestyle is the best way to reduce harm for both animals and the environment. So why is giving meat up so hard? Is it so embedded in our culture that we can continue to blissfully ignore farming practices in New Zealand that are ten years behind those in the UK and Europe? Farmed animals suffer depression and boredom, and, because of these conditions, more so than the average human being. Put simply, farming in New Zealand means animals are treated as production units, not living beings. Furthermore, the water and land used by animal farming could produce enough calories to end world poverty. It’s not exactly rocket science.
Admittedly, New Zealanders are born and raised around traditions of hunting. Raised in rural Marlborough, I had the privilege of seeing a friend joyfully puncture the bladder of a skinned cow, pigs left in a clean stream to keep them ‘fresh’, and dragging lambs around school for pets day. Not to mention the heartbreak when my friend realised she would never see her prizewinning lamb ‘Polly’ again. Polly returned a few weeks later, between bread and butter. For those raised buying your luncheon from the supermarket in wrapped plastic, you’re the lucky ones. The romantic storybook farm of free roaming animals and lush countryside is simply not a reality, as ‘100% Pure New Zealand’ would lead you to believe. Animals in New Zealand live terrifying lives, from caged hens to the 18,000 dairy cows who live in cubicles for 24 hours a day, eight months of the year.
Overseas, animal-rights activists and nations acting for sustainability are not “lovin’ it”. Italy has already ousted McDonald’s as an insult to the food industry, and their locally owned businesses thrive because of it. Thanks to Instagram, the health market and gym culture, fast food is a dying fashion. The Americanisation of our food is being replaced by ‘superfood’ culture: think marinated goji-berry chia parfait and salted-caramel black-bean brownies. Anyone who remembers the McDonald’s birthday parties may realise taking your children to McDonald’s or Burger King isn’t all that fashionable anymore. Vegetarianism is a sustainable, modern and simple choice which saves lives.
If you’re not ready to endure your Subway sandwich with no meat, at least give vegetarian cooking a go at home. Here in Wellington, we have multiple inexpensive vegetable markets. Most breads are vegetarian. Pasta, pulses and lentils, spices, even staples like Weet-Bix and chocolate, are cruelty-free. Globalisation means we do not thrive only on boiled potatoes, and even your Countdown can deliver exotic Asian, South American and Indian ingredients directly to your doorstep. Hare Krishna on campus is heaven on a plate, and the attractive staff of Midnight Espresso craft beautiful vegan cakes. It’s simple to replace animals with simple, inexpensive products, and you will never look back at your bacon and eggs (or pig and placenta, if we’re being honest).
This is 2014, not the Middle Ages, and we simply have better, more sustainable foods than other living beings. It is our responsibility to treat animals as equals. Granted, there are more taxing issues in today’s world than what’s for lunch. As gender equality and gay rights finally triumph, it takes two full seconds of your day to choose avocado over tuna. No, you will not die from protein deficiency or anaemia. Being vegetarian is not unusual anymore and, as sustainability facts prove, one day could be your only option. Not only will you live longer, but a decline in the farming industry leaves time and money for other things. More national film funding, a luxurious student lifestyle, respect for all animals, and a cleaner rural New Zealand are all within our means. Ten years in the future, and the meatlovers pizza will be an extinct memory of your childhood; something your children study for their ‘Animal Rights’ module in history class.
You’ve read this far into the article, so congratulations: your reward is the best student deal on the planet. Why not trade your chicken for chickpeas, lower your grocery bill and save the world at the same time? Alternatively, you’re an animal farmer and karma is coming for you; have you ever seen the New Zealand film Black Sheep?
Amber also cares about other issues, but never offer her onion rings at a party and never suggest a trip to the zoo. At the moment, Amber just wishes it was summer, and dreams of time-travel to 1920s America.