There is a new wave of climate action that wants more people to give up meat to save the planet, but before the Nigerian in you proceeds to close this tab, let us think, can we consider being flexitarians?

You may have read about the impacts animal agriculture has on the planet; from greenhouse gas emissions to water management to land use to even security threats from farmer- herder clashes. You may even feel kind of bad about it and want to make a change but giving up meat sounds really extreme, is that you?

Okay, so you will agree that it is tough to make this kind of change for the primary reason of “saving the environment” – for what is worth, you can ditch single-use plastic, plant trees and volunteer for more beach clean-ups to save the environment but no one needs to come close to your food. For starters, most lactose intolerant people will attest to consuming milk despite knowing how bad it makes them feel, they have in fact come to accept the post-consumption feeling and may even consume milk more than once a day. So to ask a Nigerian to stop eating meat is dicey, there’s meat in almost everything we eat, our soups, stews, rice, and the thought of never eating suya on its own sounds like an infringement on a person’s fundamental human rights.

Vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians avoid meat for health, cultural or even religious beliefs, some also say they do it for the planet and while their resolutions are inspiring, we have found something we the meat lover can work towards becoming – Flexitarianism!

According to the BBC Good Food, Flexitarianism or ‘casual vegetarianism’ is an increasingly popular, plant-based diet that claims to reduce your carbon footprint and improve your health with an eating regime that’s mostly vegetarian yet still allows for the occasional meat dish. The rise of the flexitarian diet is a result of people taking a more environmentally sustainable approach to what they eat by reducing their meat consumption in exchange for alternative protein sources.

The research that started this whole campaign was, led by scientists at the Oxford Martin School, what they actually found out was that – shifting to a mostly vegetarian diet, or even simply cutting down meat consumption to within accepted health guidelines, would make a large dent in greenhouse gases. – This is flexitarianism!

Being a flexitarian in Nigerian means we get to eat more plant-based foods, like replacing red meat with leaner meat like Chicken and Turkey. Besides, research from the World Health Organisation found that eating 50 grams of processed meat (ham, sausage, etc) every day may increase the risk of colorectal cancer, so it’s safe to reduce these hamfull  foods to live longer. This means that you can eat your already meaty ofada sauce without any other proteins, or replace meat for stock fish in your soup and just have your rice or pasta with Chicken or Turkey. You can also decide to reduce your suya intake to twice a month too.

However you decide to make the cut, it’s totally up to you (and your conscience). Your body will also thank you for including sides of vegetables to your plates; sides like coleslaw, greens, efo or even the traditional vegetable soup are good sources of low sugar and iron.

Source: @Beyonce

Many environmental organizations are clamoring for the total eradication of meat on our plates, even our faves Beyonce and JayZ started the year by pushing veganism on us and are now even “baiting” us with unlimited concert tickets to Beyonce’s shows – we understand that the hustle is realer in these climes and sometimes fried meat can be all it takes to get you going. Flexitarianism gives us a reason to be vegetarians that can cheat on their diets guilt freely, reduce their carbon footprints and still stay healthy. Are you feeling the flexitarian idea or are you not just ready to give up meat in any way, let us know in the comment section!

Jennifer Uchendu

Jennifer Uchendu

Founder, SustyVibes
Nigerian Ecofeminist passionate about sustainable development. You would often find me talking about African women and how their development will save Africa.