Is China Ready for Meatless Monday?

August 11th, 2014

Meat production has been pointed to as one of the biggest sources of the pollution that is disrupting the global climate.

As a country, China consumes about two times more meat than the U.S. And meat consumption in China has been increasing steadily over the last half century. It’s more than doubled since 1985. This is in part attributable to the prevailing view in Chinese culture that eating meat is a symbol of wealth. So as China’s wealth increases—they now have more millionaires than any other country other than the U.S.—they’ve got the means to eat more meat. And so they have been.

mm1And yet, while there has been a rise in meat consumption, there is also a counter movement forming, or a “new breed of Chinese vegetarianism” as Graham Land puts it. “This […] is mainly due to a recent rise in environmental awareness among China’s young and educated.

“Many Chinese, while not embracing a vegetarian or vegan diet, are becoming more conscious of how much meat they eat and where it comes from; for instance, whether it is organic or sustainably farmed.”

And maybe calling it a “counter culture” is not enough. Even the Chinese ex-Premier Wen Jiaobao campaigned for “one day vegetarian every week.” Others, who have attained a certain level of celebrity, have also embraced this ecologically aware eating movement. Director Jian Yi, recently released a documentary called, What’s for Dinner? Which focuses on more environmentally conscious eating. And pop music singer, Long Kuan, adds to the conversation by releasing a song titled, “LOHAS Queen,” LOHAS is an acronym for “lifestyles of health and sustainability.”

This is a counter current. It hasn’t yet turned the tide, but let’s hope it does, because as Janet Larsen, the Director of Research at the Earth Policy Institute says, “If everyone on the planet were to eat like Americans, we have the capacity to feed 2 billion people.” China’s population right now is at 1.35 billion and they are steadily eating more and more like the western world.chinese_cow