Friday, 9 March 2012

Should the government be telling people to eat meat?

Speak to someone who became vegan 30 or 40 years ago and they will tell  you how difficult it was. In Australia vegans had to import their own soy milk throughout the 70s and early 80s. Now every cafe in Australia has soy milk no question, and finding a vegetarian meal at a restaurant is easy in every Australian city.

But one significant challenge remains - changing the language we use to describe protein.

A newly established group called 'Vegan Australia' has begun lobbying the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). They want Australian dietary guidelines to be re-written so there is no food group called 'lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, and legumes/beans'. Instead they want that group to simply be called 'protein' with a range of suggested sources.

This makes me wonder how important language is to our food choices.

I know that when I wanted to stop eating meat I faced considerable family pressure. Most of that pressure was based in fear (what would happen to me) and ignorance (people can't live without meat!) I wonder whether the next generation of parents will be less fearful for their children's health if the government doesn't actively prescribe meat as part of a balanced diet.

This also opens up questions about another item in the papers today. Researchers think that they are very close to developing a plant based meat that meat eaters will like:

If they can get the taste right. And if people will eat it, where would plant based meat leave the Australian government's 5 food groups!

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