Kiwis urged to 'go vegetarian' in 2021

The NZ Vegetarian Society says going meat-free is a "no-brainer."
The NZ Vegetarian Society says going meat-free is a "no-brainer." Photo credit: Getty

Vegetarians across the country are urging their fellow Kiwis to cut meat from their diet and  'go veg' in 2021.

The NZ Vegetarian Society says plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular in New Zealand with more people embracing a meat-free diet. Now, they are encouraging others to embrace the lifestyle.

According to a survey conducted this time last year, which asked 500 people about their eating habits, almost half said they were planning on eating less meat in 2020.

The majority of those who said they would cut their meat intake cited health reasons while the rest said it was for environmental reasons.

Another survey conducted in February by Colmar Brunton showed an increase of 50 percent from the previous year in the number of Kiwis aged 18 or over who always or mostly eat plant-based meals.

"Around 15 percent of Kiwis are avoiding meat most or all of the time, and we believe that number is growing," NZ Vegetarian Society spokesperson Philip McKibbin said on Tuesday.

"It's easy to see why. Vegetarianism and veganism are better for the animals, better for the planet, and better for your health. It's a no-brainer."

McKibbin said there are five main reasons why New Zealanders should consider embracing a meat-free diet.

It's better for the animals

Just like us, other animals have interests and deserve our respect, said McKibbin. 

"Making changes to what we eat can benefit them."

It's better for the planet

McKibbin said animal agriculture is a leading cause of pollution to land and waterways. He also pointed to the fact it accounts for almost half of the country's greenhouse gas emissions.

"By making changes to what we eat, we can reduce our impact on the Earth."

It's better for your health

The NZ Vegetarian Society argues that well-balanced vegetarian and vegan diets are "typically healthier than diets containing meat". However, they add, "it is important to do your research".

"It is especially important for vegans to ensure that they get enough B12, as this is not naturally-occurring in plant foods."

It can be cheaper

McKibbin said going meat-free can result in lower food bills.

"If you find some recipes you can make at home, using simple ingredients, it will not cost very much."

It's enjoyable

The final reason McKibbin gave was that experimenting with new recipes can be fun.

"There are so many exciting foods to try, from vegan pies to dairy-free ice cream New veg products are being released all the time," he said.

Not everyone believes vegetarianism or veganism is good for you though, with many questioning whether it really is possible to get all the nutrients the body needs from a plant-based diet.

Many have expressed particular concerns over whether it is safe for children to go meat-free.

Earlier this year Auckland University's head of nutrition and dietetics Dr Clare Wall told Newshub veganism could be safe for children, but it required knowledge and planning to ensure their nutritional needs were being met.

Because children have higher nutrient needs than adults, their growing muscles require more protein, their growing bones more calcium and vitamin D and their growing brains more iron and vitamin B12, Dr Wall said.

For a vegan child to not develop deficiencies, they need to be taking a vitamin B12 supplement and eating all of the different plant-based proteins - different varieties of pulses, beans, legumes, and nuts and seeds, she said.