More and more people are either choosing not to eat meat, poultry or fish or they are choosing not to eat as much of these proteins. They are becoming vegetarians or “occasional” vegetarians. Often the choice to radically modify a diet is the result of a personal decision to lower the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity or some forms of cancer. Some people are advocates of animal rights and therefore object to what they consider the inhumane way in which billions of animals are slaughtered for human consumption every year in North America. (One meat packaging plant in Winnipeg processes 40,000 chickens a day!) They may also want to make a personal statement about the extraordinary amount of the world’s arable land that is devoted to raising the animals that eventually feed only a small percentage of the world population. They are concerned about the negative impact that meat production has on tropical rainforests, soil stability and air and water quality.
The trend towards vegetarianism in North America developed during the back-to-the-land movement in the 1960s. Influenced by their bohemian travels into the Third World, the flower children returned to North America with new recipes, different spices and the meatless diets they had been introduced to in India, Africa and the Middle East. They cultivated, harvested and preserved their own food, and in the process, rocked the basics of the Western diet to the core. The traditional American supper of meat, potatoes and vegetables was gradually transformed by these “hippies” living in communes and on their self-sufficient farms.
If the dream slowly faded, the vegetarian diet didn’t. Whole wheat, rice, beans and soya products were gradually introduced and finally accepted as mainstream food products. By the 1980s, most Canadian towns supported at least one vegetarian restaurant and a health food store... except maybe in Alberta! The legacy of this trend is