I was recently at a dinner party where a colleague of mine apologized for being a vegan, feeling her choice was somewhat inconvenient and obviously having experienced social judgement for it before. Luckily, there was an ethics teacher present, who assured her that there’s nothing to apologize for, but to be proud of. Others, however, kept their opinions to themselves. Obviously, being a vegan among other philosophy students at liberal arts college the young teacher just finished was one thing, but holding on to her beliefs among senior colleagues omnivores was another. I see her choice as admirable, but having known many people who adopted vegetarian of vegan lifestyle during college but not holding on to it long after their mid-20s, I wonder how she’ll handle social pressure from this point on. It also makes me wonder if there’a way to support vegetarian aspirations, and being mindful about what we eat, but also leaving some room for occasional meat consumption. Is being mostly-vegetarian a goal worth pursuing?
Pro-environmental behavior has many aspects. One of them is reducing meat consumption, and thus decreasing large-scale meat production that’s responsible for global greenhouse gas emissions and for the suffering of animals. I can see a lot of good work on the behalf of vegans and vegetarians in rising awareness about these issues, however, their approach may work for some people, but be ineffective or even counter-effective for others. What we know from psychology of attitude change is that people who are already close to vegetarian lifestyle might adopt it when confronted with its propaganda. However, the further the people are from vegetarian lifestyle, the more likely they are to stick to their beliefs, or even change their attitudes to the opposite direction, as a reaction to goals they see as too extremist and unattainable. That is why I believe Reducetarian initiative will resonate with many people: simply put, Reducetarians are individuals committed to eat less meat.
Brian Kateman, the co-founder of Reducetarion movement
To learn more about this initiative that gives a positive identity to people who, for various reasons, don’t avoid eating meat completely, but still make a conscious effort to decrease its consumption, check out Reducetarian web page, Facebook page, Twitter account and, most importantly, watch the live stream of Brian Kateman, the co-founder of Reducetarian movement, presenting at TEDxCUNY on November 16.
I see a lot of potential in this gentle approach, where small behavioral changes are acknowledged, and where the fear of failure is minimized. I think is works well with human nature and it can help us change for the better.