It’s National Vegetarian Week! Mon 21 – Sun 27 May 2012

If you have ever wondered what it must be like to live as a vegetarian but never dared try it, how about giving it a go during National Vegetarian Week? With events planned for all this week, from individuals who are simply letting people know what they are doing to raise awareness of their lifestyle, to companies who are embracing a change for the better. And it is a change for the better, make no mistake. A few facts for you if ever you needed some motivation:

Did You Know:

Dairy Cows – Are milked 2 or 3 times a day and it is fully mechanised. A typical dairy cow produces up to 6,500 litres of milk a year but normally a cow kept with her calf would produce less than 1,000 litres of milk throughout the lactation period. This huge overproduction of milk has severe welfare implications for dairy cows and has resulted in a number of so-called production diseases. A cow’s natural lifespan is 20 to 25 years. By the time the dairy cow is just five years old she is worn out by the strain of constant milk and calf production and is slaughtered as she is no further use to the industry.

Cattle – Many of the approximately 482,000 young males currently born are killed shortly after birth, they are either shot or electrically stunned. Other calves are exported on long journeys to continental veal farms. Veal is a tender ‘white’ meat from calves slaughtered at the age of 4 to 5 months. In the UK, veal calves may be reared in groups housed in straw yards/pens and fed on milk replacer. Previously they were usually reared in solitary solid-sided wooden crates with slatted floors (veal crate).

Chickens – The current recommended maximum stocking density is stated as 34 kg of bird per square metre (up to 17 chickens per square meter). This means each bird has an area of around an A4 sheet of paper. As the birds grow, conditions deteriorate and the sheds become increasingly crowded until the shed floor becomes a solid mass of chickens competing to reach food and water. The birds’ natural behaviour to perch, walk, run and fly are obviously frustrated in the shed environment.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. It makes green sense to go vegetarian as studies on world food security estimate that an affluent diet containing meat requires up to 3 times as many resources as a vegetarian diet. Going vegetarian is an easy way to lower your own environmental impact and help ensure worldwide food security. If you want to take part in NVW it is really easy and fun and you will come across like minded people who open your eyes to a world of delicious food and healthy eating. Or, if you’re planning something as an organisation or community group, it might help get more people to join you, buy your products or attend your events. It’s also a chance to try something new with your colleagues, show your students that you can cater for all diets or show vegetarians that your restaurant has some tasty choices for them.

Anyone can get involved with the Week: businesses, schools, colleges, universities, community groups, libraries, hospitals, families and individuals are just a few adding what they’re doing to our What’s Happening page each year. When the Week has finished they’ll be looking at the What’s Happening page to choose the winners of the Local Hero awards – so you might even win a prize and really make your mark on the veggie map!