In January 2008, Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change, made headlines when he asked the world to cut back on meat consumption, pointing to UN-based research that shows the production of livestock is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined. The plea was one of the first times the IPCC had publicly linked climate change with livestock production.
Richard Rogers, who founded the Halifax Association of Vegetarians in 2006, says that in today's economic climate, vegetarianism makes financial sense, too. "Most of the world's population are vegetarians because they can't afford meat," says Rogers. "Their diets are mostly composed of beans, rice and grains." And with an ever-increasing global population estimated to approach 10 billion by the end of the century, Rogers argues that vegetarianism is the only way our skyrocketing human population can be supported.
Most people choose vegetarianism for health reasons first, says Rogers. Others may choose to forego meat out of compassion for animals. Whatever their motivation, "it was certainly more difficult to be a vegetarian 100 years ago," adds Rogers. Today's vegetarians can choose a range of meat analog products made of soy or wheat that are very meat-like in taste and available in most grocery stores.
This year, HAV will start offering basic vegetarian cooking classes. "Cooking is really very important if you're going to be a vegetarian and you want a healthy diet," says Rogers. The association also hosts potlucks and dinners with guest speakers, but the most popular benefit is its discount program, which entitles HAV members to discounts at a dozen businesses across the city as well as at Halifax's two vegetarian restaurants, Heartwood and Satisfaction Feast.