By Jess Bertan
As speculation grows over the ethical and environmental repercussions of meat consumption, Canadians are turning to plant-based meat alternatives in order to alter their diet patterns and eat greener.
Whether for religious, personal or health reasons, a survey from Statista has shown that 36.5% of Canadians are willing to reduce their consumption of meat products. Dieticians are equally as enthusiastic about plant-based alternatives, with 82.8% of respondents endorsing the science behind a plant-based diet.
The meat industry has been under fire for the past five years amid environmental concerns and their secrecy regarding high-level carbon emissions. During that same time, medical journals such as the National Library of Medicine published studies drawing a direct link between eating meat and cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type two diabetes.
According to Kip Andersen, a filmmaker who created Netflix’s documentary What The Health, which addresses the dangers of eating meat, the WHO classifies processed meat as a class one carcinogen next to cigarettes and asbestos.
Animal farming is also the largest contributor to deforestation, air pollution, and water contamination due to its lack of standardized sanitation practices.
“Animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector. It is the leading cause of rainforest destruction, species extinction, ocean dead zones and freshwater consumption,” says Andersen in the film.
As the demand for plant-based alternatives continues to rise, the market is responding with dozens of new products that will help ethically satisfy cravings for meat. Fast food chains such as A&W, Burger King, Taco Bell and KFC all have come out with plant-based menu items that make substituting meat accessible and affordable.
While interest in meat alternatives has been rising in recent years, companies have been developing vegetarian options for over a century. A timeline documents some of the most influential pioneers of the meat substitute industry. RSJ/Aishah Ashraf
Kai Gutteridge, who has been vegan for five years, says going plant-based is not as hard as most people make it out to be, especially since the meat alternatives on the market have come such a long way since she chose to make the switch.
“Meat alternatives offer the same familiar, comforting taste from before I was vegan, but without the guilt of taking lives. With the growth and accessibility of plant based alternatives and affordable vegan ingredients, most of us are quite capable of going plant-based,” says Gutteridge.
“Meat and dairy alternatives make me feel a lot more confident that I am not contributing to the global environmental effects that factory farming has.”