Vegetarianism in the news

Keeping vegetarianism in the news and being a voice for vegetarians are both important elements of the Vegetarian Society's work. Below are the some of the current news stories that relate to vegetarian issues. Please keep visiting, you may also want to follow us on Twitter.

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Our comment on study - Vegetarians are 'less healthy and have a lower quality of life than meat-eaters'
04 April 2014

Today has seen a few articles on a study which headlines that vegetarians are less healthy - here's The Independent's article 

Here's our comment:

An Austrian study from the University of Graz has attracted controversy over potentially misleading headlines, following publication of data comparing vegetarians and meat eaters.

The study - Nutrition and Health – The Association between Eating Behavior and Various Health Parameters: A Matched Sample Study -attempted to 'match' different groups of people according to age and aspects of lifestyle to determine whether any patterns in health could be observed according to their choice  of vegetarian or meat-based diet.

Results purported to show associations between vegetarianism and higher levels of allergy, mental health issues and cancer.

Following comments from the scientific community in response to the publication, the lead author Nathalie Burkert cautioned that the results of her study could not be taken to imply a causal link. She also admitted that participants were not given clear instructions about the definition of 'vegetarian' and that because of this  half those in the group of 330 so-called vegetarians were in fact fish-eaters.

More importantly it was she said, a characteristic of a cross-sectional study that no direct cause and effect could be attributed to the findings.

In other words people could just as readily have chosen a vegetarian diet because they are suffering from cancer or allergies  as the other way round.

Other critics of the study's findings pointed out that because the authors had 'matched' the participants using very wide age ranges rather than by exact age the age differences alone were enough to produce flawed results.

Comments on the report and the report itself   can be viewed here  


You can also read NHS Choices take on the report here




Tony Benn (1925-2014) vegetarian and animal champion
25 March 2014

Tony Benn, who has died on at the age of 88, a former MP and cabinet minister was a sometimes controversial figure much admired for being a man of unshakeable principle. As a public figure he championed equality and social justice was no less outspoken about the position of animals in society. Tony Benn was a vegetarian for over 40 years.

In an Independent newspaper interview in 2006, when asked what made him become a vegetarian Tony said: “I never liked meat and my son Hilary, 30 years ago, said: ‘If the world ate the grain instead of feeding it to animals and killing them, there would be enough food for everybody.’ That moment my wife and I became vegetarian and I never touched meat since."

Tony Benn gave an address at the first Vegetarian Rally in 1990 prompting headlines of ‘Veggie Benn’, appearing alongside the then Speaker of the House of Commons and former Tory MP Bernard Weatherill, Tony Benn remained a vegetarian and an outspoken supporter and activist concerned with the treatment of animals throughout his life.


Study finds vegetable protein a lower risk than animal protein in middle age
24 March 2014

A team of researchers at the University of Southern California have published their findings on the link between dietary protein and mortality. It is known that calorie restriction affects longevity. It’s not known, however, whether the effect is due to calorie restriction per se or the lowering of protein intake or other nutrients.

The study published on March 4, 2014, in Cell Metabolism looked at data on more than 6,800 U.S. adults, ages 50 and over, from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), a periodic health and nutritional survey of the U.S. population. The researchers linked the survey data with National Death Index data, which provides the timing and causes of death.

Participants were categorized into 3 groups based on protein intake from protein: high (20% or more), moderate (10-19%), or low (less than 10%). They were further split into 2 age categories: 50 to 65, and 66 and older.
Adults in the 50 to 65 group who reported a high protein intake had a 75% increase in overall mortality and were 4 times more likely to die from cancer during the following 18 years than those in the low protein group. The moderate-protein diet was associated with a 3-fold increase in cancer mortality compared to the low-protein diet. A high-protein diet was also associated with a 5-fold increase in diabetes mortality across all ages. In adults over 65, however, a high-protein diet was linked to lower mortality.

The associations—which were adjusted for numerous factors including smoking, waist circumference, and chronic conditions—weren’t altered when the percentage of calories from fat or carbohydrate were considered. One limitation of the study, the researchers note, is that the participants’ protein intake was based on a single 24-hour dietary recall.
However, the associations were only found when the proteins were derived from animal, rather than plant sources the researchers said.


Scientific review reveals vegetarian diets can lower blood pressure
25 February 2014

The largest study to date published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has concluded that a vegetarian diet can prevent high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension, and also be used clinically to help sufferers.

Researchers reviewed evidence from seven clinical trials and 32 studies published between 1910 and 2013 and found consistent positive results. Participants in the study saw a drop of 6.9 mm of Mercury (Hg) in the systolic blood pressure and 4.7 mm of Hg in the diastolic blood pressure in an observational study of 21,604 participants. In seven separate clinical trials, 311 patients achieved a 4.8 mm Hg drop in the systolic rate and 2.2 mm Hg reduction in the diastolic blood pressure.

Averaged out between the two studies, participants improved their systolic rates by 5.8 mm Hg and lowered their diastolic rates by an average of 3.45 mm Hg. That is approximately half of the improvement in blood pressure gained from standard doses of typical blood pressure medications, and about the same improvement gained from lifestyle changes such as weight reduction, increased exercise regimens or reductions in salt use.

Further studies are required to clarify which types of vegetarian diets are most strongly associated with lower blood pressure but the authors recommended that research into the use of vegetarian diets in public health initiatives aimed at prevention of high blood pressure or in clinical settings, would also be of great potential value.


Report from Friends of the Earth calls for radical rethink on global meat consumption
15 January 2014

A 70 page report produced by Friends of the Earth has called for a radical, global rethink on the consumption and production of meat and dairy. Intensive production is having an increasingly devastating impact on society and the environment, according to the new ‘Meat Atlas’ published on 9th January.

Adrian Bebb, senior campaigner with Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Diet is no longer a private matter. Every time we eat, we are making a political choice, and we are impacting upon the lives of people around the world..”

Written in 50 concise chapters the report, produced in partnership with the radical German Heinrich Boell Foundation, focusses in detail on a number of critical problems created by intensive corporate meat production. The report emphasises that each meat based meal people eat has very real effects around the world on the poor, on wildlife and biodiversity, the climate and on global food security.

The Meat Atlas is an indictment of modern trends in meat eating and a manifesto for change. The Friends of the Earth publication dedicates a chapter to vegetarianism, a positive step for an organisation that has not previously been an advocate of meat-free living. Read more


Tax on meat could cut impact on climate say scientists
07 January 2014

Scientific analysis of growing emissions from farmed animals has led researchers from Aberdeen University to propose the introduction of a tax on meat. The last half century has seen a 50% increase in the global population of sheep, goats and cows, the ruminant animals who produce methane and are the single biggest human-related source of the super-potent greenhouse gas. Research published in the journal Nature Climate Change concludes that a tax on meat could be the only way to forcibly incentivise a reduction in meat consumption.

Members of the farming community who oppose the idea say that livestock play a crucial role in managing and maintaining the landscape and that livestock bring specific environmental benefits that can significantly mitigate the negative effect of emissions. Whether or not livestock’s role in the process of 'carbon sequestration' is as benign as they claim is the subject of fierce on-going debate with calculations of total livestock contribution to greenhouse gas emissions ranging between 14.5% and 51%. Read more


European court rules on vegetarian prisoner's rights
07 January 2014

 The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Romanian prison officials who refused an inmate's request for vegetarian meals violated the man's right to free religious expression. In prison since 1999 and serving a 25-year sentence Ghennadii Vartic asked prison authorities to provide him with a vegetarian diet both to relieve a medical condition and to accord with his Buddhist beliefs.

The court noted that similar dietary concessions have been given to Jewish inmates in Belgium and France and said: "The court is not persuaded that the provision of a vegetarian diet to the applicant would have entailed any disruption to the management of the prison or any decline in the standards of meals served to other prisoners."

The court declined Vartic's demand for over £200,000 in damages against Romania, but awarded him £2,510 for his personal suffering. Read more


‘Peak meat’ in America – vegan diets are on the rise
13 December 2013

Meat consumption has been declining in America for the last 10 years for health, environment, ethical and economic reasons. An ever-increasing number of celebrities and business people are experimenting with, or adopting vegan diets. Read more here


The true cost of reduced plant food consumption
29 November 2013

This article outlines the role of soy and plant-based foods in reducing the environmental burden of what we eat in the EU. However, there are regulatory hurdles in rebalancing our diets to more plant based foods for example, taxes, policies and labelling rules. Read more here


George Monbiot ‘eating’ his words on veganism
28 November 2013

Taking note of Al Gore’s recent move to veganism and whilst researching his book, Feral, George Monbiot has back-tracked on an article from 2010, entitled ‘I was wrong about veganism. Let them eat meat – but farm it properly’, in which he claimed veganism was not the ethical imperative he once thought.  Monbiot now believes extensive livestock rearing even for ‘sustainable meat’ production, on land unsuitable for arable farming, is damaging to the environment causing flash floods and drought. Read more here


Al Gore goes vegan
26 November 2013

The former vice president of America, Al Gore, turned vegan a couple of months ago. Factory farming in America is threatening the planet and people’s health so it’s time that consumption patterns shift to a better model. Read more here


Norwegian army goes on a vegetarian diet
20 November 2013

The Norwegian army is putting its troops on a vegetarian diet once a week to fight a new kind of enemy – climate change. It is not about saving money, but about being more ecologically friendly and healthier. Read more here


You can’t improve horses’ welfare by eating them
19 November 2013

Princess Anne recently suggested that horses’ welfare could be improved by eating them. However, this comment piece outlines the welfare conditions of animals kept for food, and the underlying assumptions about why certain species are loved as pets, yet others are simply seen as meat. If eating meat appals you then you shouldn’t eat any animals at all. Read more here



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