The new term that aims to reduce the stigma of veganism

by Rebecca Macfie / 08 November, 2017
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Brian Kateman. Photo/Andrei Severny

'Reducetarian' is a new word and movement that is trying to take away the stigma of veganism and its ilk.

One of the simplest solutions to the world’s ecological crisis is on the tip of your fork. Whether the centrepiece of your meal is a pasture-fed lamb chop from the hills of North Canterbury or a free-range rump steak grown in the King Country, considerably more greenhouse-gas emissions will have been generated in its production than in an equally protein-rich meal of pulses or nuts.

But although there are signs that people are increasingly aware that their diet has an impact on the planet, becoming vegetarian or vegan is a step too far for most.

For those who want to make a contribution without upending their culinary lives, Brian Kateman has come to the rescue with a new word and movement. The 28-year-old New Yorker was a vegan who found himself accused of back-sliding by cynical friends and family every time he ate a slice of turkey at Christmas or Thanksgiving.

He figured the perfect had become the enemy of the good. Even culinary categories such as “semi-vegetarian” or “flexitarian” seemed to denote a rigidity that stood in the way of ordinary people taking small personal steps to reduce their meat consumption to help the planet.

So he and a friend came up with the term “reducetarian”, an all-inclusive concept to capture everyone who is cutting down on animal products, regardless of the degree or motivation. “Whether you’re a vegan or vegetarian or doing meatless Monday or ‘vegan before six’, all these strategies put us on the same team, which is trying to reduce consumption of animal products to create a more healthy, compassionate and sustainable world,” Kateman told the Listener.

He believes the concept is taking hold. “We are seeing more and more thought leaders and celebrities cutting back on meat, such as Miley Cyrus, Beyoncé, Ellen DeGeneres, and politicians such as [Democratic senator] Cory Booker.”

More than half a million people in the UK count themselves as vegan, three and a half times more than a decade ago, and a report by research company GlobalData concluded 6% of Americans identify as vegans, up from 1% in 2014. The same report found 44% of consumers in Germany were following a low-meat diet, up from 25% in 2014.

“This is not just a fad. But most people choose food based on price, taste and convenience, not environmental concerns,” says Kateman, who runs the Reducetarian Foundation. “As we’re seeing many more plant-based alternatives on the market that are affordable, delicious and convenient, it will make it easier to become reducetarian.”

This year, he published The Reducetarian Solution, a collection of essays on the economics, environmental impact and animal welfare issues surrounding the animal protein industry. A reducetarian cookbook and documentary are in the pipeline.

This article was first published in the October 21, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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