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Vegetarianism, Veganism & the Possible Future of Animal Protein

by John Burns BVMS MRCVS

As I write this article, it is mid-January and Veganuary is in full swing. The challenge to give up meat and dairy products for a month could not be better timed after the Christmas excess. Reasons to take part vary from saving the planet to personal health and the most obvious one, animal welfare.

2% of the UK population now identify as vegetarian*

This figure is on the rise. As the planet continues to take the toll of our carnivorous ways, we are all being encouraged to cut down on the steak.

In 2016, Public Health England issued a report urging people to halve their dairy and meat intake. Since then, Meat Free Monday has achieved huge momentum in the UK and big chain restaurants such as Wagamamas and Wetherspoons have introduced new vegan and veggie menus.

Gone are the days when being vegetarian or vegan was a label reserved for hippies. Meaty burgers are being replaced by seitan, cookbooks which promote plant-based eating are on the increase and those that do eat dairy and meat are demanding more transparency and welfare from the agriculture industry.

15% of all global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the livestock industry**

Globally, we are consuming more meat than ever before. Rising incomes in large countries such as China coupled with changing consumer preferences have seen the demand for meats such as beef grow tenfold.

In 2016, the world consumed 129 billion pounds of beef. This, coupled with the fact that a milking dairy cow drinks 30-50 gallons of water each day raises concern for the future.

A meat tax may be on the cards

Germany, Denmark and Sweden parliaments have discussed the option of a meat tax as a way to reduce our meat and dairy consumption. Although nothing is set in stone, research conducted in 2016 found that taxes of 40% on beef, 20% on dairy products and 8.5% on chicken would save 500,000 lives a year and drastically reduce carbon emissions***.

Rob Bailey, Research Director at thinktank Chatham House said, “It’s hard to imagine concerted action to tax meat today, but over the next 10 – 20 years, I would expect to see meat taxes accumulate.”

All of this poses a question mark over the future of pet food protein

As a pet food manufacturer that uses meat in our products, we’d be hypocrites to sit here waving a large vegetarian flag. However, it is our philosophy is that protein intake should be low to moderate and this is reflected in our product range. Looking to the future, could the alternative to meat lie in insect protein?

Although insect protein is still a marmite concept in the west, over 80% of global countries consume bugs as part of their daily diet.

Crickets for instance contain more iron than spinach, more B12 than salmon and double the protein of beef. Most importantly, they’re overwhelmingly more sustainable than their animal neighbours.

In fact, Christoph Vitzhum of Finnish food company, Fazer recently brought the world’s first insect-based bread to market. The bread contains around 70 crickets and is designed to “provide an alternative answer to where the world is going to get its nutrition and protein from, as meat production faces challenges.”

Plant-based protein

Dog-friendly plant-based protein such as quinoa, buckwheat and natural peanut butter are not to be sniffed at, either. Buckwheat in particular contains all 9 amino acids and a 100g serving contains 13g protein****.

Interestingly, the world’s oldest dog lived to the ripe old age of 27 and was vegan. Brambles, a blue Collie who lived in the UK consumed a diet of rice, lentils and organic vegetables. That’s not to say that all dogs should be vegetarian or vegan, just that consuming this diet is possible.

If your dog is a veggie, or you are considering introducing more plant-based meals, it’s important to remember that some human based foods such as onions, some nuts, raisins etc can be toxic to dogs and should be avoided. All diets offered should be well balanced and offer all the essential vitamins and mineral requirements of a dog. Speaking to your veterinarian or a doggie nutritional advisor is essential to ensure you are achieving a balanced diet.

Nobody can predict what the future will hold, but it’s certainly an interesting talking point with plenty of food for thought, excuse the pun.


References:

*https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Vegetarianhealth/Pages/Goingvegetarian.aspx

**http://oceangeneration.org/news/meat-tax-inevitable/

***https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/07/tax-meat-and-dairy-to-cut-emissions-and-save-lives-study-urges

**** https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/buckwheat#section2

by John Burns BVMS MRCVS
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