What is a flexitarian?

We love to put people in boxes, even if we say we don’t – it’s our way of categorizing people for easy identification and creates all sorts of general associations.

For example, take the word vegan. To many people what springs to mind is a hippie. Whilst veganism was and is very popular among true hippies, it’s now become increasingly mainstream, and even more so is vegetarianism.

Most vegetarians include dairy products and eggs in their diet – this is also known as lacto-ovo-vegetarian. Vegetarians who exclude all animal derived from their diet are termed vegans. Some vegans even refuse to wear clothing made from animal products.

But what about a “flexitarian” – what the heck is that?

Quite simply, it’s a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat. A vegetarian diet has been shown to have far less impact on the environment than one heavy in meat, but for some vegetarians and vegans, they may need to top up on certain nutrients from time to time for whatever reason, or perhaps they just get cravings for something meaty. After all, we are omnivores.

My father was vegan for years and it did him a world of good. He ate “nothing with a heartbeat and from nothing that has a mother”. Meat, eggs, cheese were all off the diet. I never asked him about insects; I’m assuming they weren’t on his meal planner though.

In recent years, as he’s getting a bit older, he’s found that he’s starting to eat a little fish and sometimes some dairy to maintain his good health.

I think that many vegans and vegetarians have a lot of pressure placed on them when it comes to diet – people tend to watch what they eat, looking to pick them up on something. If a vegan craves an egg, there is nothing wrong with having one and they shouldn’t have to lose the label they are comfortable with, or go to a 12 step meeting or confession as a result. That’s all “greener than thou” type stuff.

By the same token, people who have chosen the path of veganism shouldn’t be treated as creatures from outer space – it’s an incredible commitment and I admire them; unless they are the militant vegan types. So many times I’ve seen others attempting to push animal products onto vegans and it’s just disrespectful. A funny incident I remember was a family member saying to another family member who was vegan “oh, you don’t eat meat – but that means you still eat lamb right?”. True story :).

Some people simply weren’t designed to be vegans day-in and day out for the terms of their natural lives and it’s these folks that perhaps should consider a flexitarian diet and not feel bad about it. They are still having less of an impact on the environment that rabid omnivores like myself who are battling simply reducing meat intake.

Vegan, Vegetarian, Omnivore, Carnivore, Flexitarian – really, these are all just labels aren’t they? Is the vegan who buys a food item that was shipped halfway around the world that was grown in a deforested area any better than the farmer that humanely slaughters and cooks a chicken from his own yard? To each according to his capabilities and people shouldn’t feel they have to fit in with a label if their body is telling them something different. If you’re reducing your meat consumption, but haven’t given it up entirely, you still deserve a pat on the back :).