Is being flexitarian THE climate change solution?

Our climate is changing, and so must we


Climate change means the world is experiencing higher temperatures, rising sea levels, and increased extreme events that impact life on land and in the oceans.

To cope with these changes and avoid catastrophic natural disasters, humans and nature must adapt, fast.

For people, and society, adaptation to climate change means adjusting our behaviour and adapting our  way of life.

Why should we worry?

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report launched in February 2022[1], the world is under-prepared for the changing climate, and we have already reached 1.1°C of global warming.

From converting natural landscapes to farmland and intensifying agricultural production we are seeing food systems accounting for more than one third of global greenhouse gas emissions.

We must transform our eating habits and evolve our farming practises if we are to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

Scientists believe that a target of 1.5°C, set by the legally binding international treaty called The Paris Agreement in 2016[2], will significantly reduce the risks of severe droughts, food shortages, and extreme heatwaves caused by climate change from occurring in our lifetime.

What can be done?

Within the food system animal agriculture is responsible for up to 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions[3], yet the topic remains shockingly absent from the conversation around the climate emergency.

In the UK, intensive livestock farming accounts for approximately 47% of all methane emissions.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. But as methane is short-lived in the atmosphere, eliminating intensive farming practices and reducing the amount of meat we eat is a quick way to mitigate climate change.

Should I become a flexitarian? Yes!

From personal experience, adjusting my diet to reduce the amount of meat I consumed was initially daunting. I grew up in a household where eating meat once, if not twice a day, was the norm. 

But, luckily, we now live in an time where new and innovative plant-based alternatives are being developed by the tenfold, and tasty alternatives are more readily available in supermarkets.

Here are some tips that I found helpful when I started my flexitarian journey, and I hope they help you too!

1. Start off simple and replace one food product that you could ‘take or leave’

I have milk in my tea and coffee, and I am accustomed to three to four cups a day. I don’t drink milk otherwise, so decided to experiment with different plant-based milks to see which worked best in my drinks.

It was a small yet easy change and paved the way to being flexitarian!

For you it may be cheese, yoghurt, red meat, or chicken, but one simple change can give you the confidence to expand your plant-based appetite.

2. Plan your weekly meals in advance

Whether it is to help with budgeting, to make the trip to the supermarket less stressful, or to help avoid food waste, meal planning is a useful tool that can help you adopt a flexitarian diet.

In the early stages I would make every other day a meat-free day, and then gradually reduced the meat to vegetable ratio for the meals I had planned.

This made the shift to a plant-based diet easier, and it meant that the money I saved on meat-free days could go towards the high welfare animal products that I did buy.

3. Find new recipes and veggie alternatives to your favourite foods

Plant-based doesn’t have to mean salads 24/7.

Bacon, burgers, sausages, cheese, and even eggs have all got tasty plant-based alternatives!

And we cannot ignore the power of the humble vegetable.

By doing a little research, you can find a plethora of tasty recipes that will match any meat dish you currently cook. You can even find plant-based recipes in supermarket monthly magazines and on the packaging of certain tofu or pea-protein products.

Or why not try some of our delicious, easy yet affordable recipes?  

Plant-based on the horizon

With the rate at which we are farming animals for their meat and milk, reducing our global temperature to the 1.5°C target seems out of reach.

It is easy to think that as a single human, a change as small as changing what you eat will not make a difference. But, according to a 2019 study, food-related emissions could drop by a staggering 70% by 2050 if we all shifted to a plant-based diet[4].

Not only that, but this decline in global greenhouse gas emissions could also result in savings of approximately £440 billion.

It is clear that to stem global warming we must all play our part. By reducing the amount of meat and dairy we consume and adopting a dietary shift to plant-based food in order to rapidly decrease greenhouse gas emissions, we have the chance to limit the worst consequences of climate change.

Animal Charity


Animal Charity

Rebecca Dharmpaul

Campaigns Officer

Becky works in the Campaigns Team at FOUR PAWS UK, managing our Make Food Kinder and Dog Cat Meat Trade campaigns. She has a background in Zoology and animal welfare within sanctuaries, with over five years experience across several animal non-profits to aid in the protection of animals, both in the UK and internationally.

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