Is this simply a ‘fad’ or a ‘craze’ or is there real substance and facts behind following this type of diet. Many restaurants now offer both vegetarian and vegan options on their menus. Not so long ago the only option would have been a salad, but now much more imaginative dishes are on offer. There are also now dedicated vegetarian and vegan restaurants. I am personally far from convinced, though I do accept that we probably eat too much red meat.

A major concern of those who follow this diet is the overuse of antibiotics and hormones in livestock. America is widely reported as the main culprit in this practice, and we have all heard about washing chickens in chlorine, thankfully banned by the EU. However, many times I read that this is a perfectly harmless treatment, it would certainly put me off my favourite chicken piri piri.

What do vegetarians eat?

According to the Vegetarian Society, vegetarians are people who do not eat the products or by-products of animal slaughter. Vegetarians do not consume: meat, such as beef, pork, and game poultry, such as chicken, turkey, duck fish and shellfish, insects and other types of animal protein stock or fats that derive from animal slaughter.

Some vegetarians have told me they won’t eat anything ‘with a face’. However, many vegetarians do consume by-products that do not involve the slaughter of animals. These include: eggs dairy products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt and honey.

There is a ‘but’

The Harvard Medical School reported that According to the American Dietetic Association, "appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases."

"Appropriately planned" is the operative term. Unless you follow recommended guidelines on nutrition, fat consumption, and weight control, becoming a vegetarian won't necessarily be good for you.

It looks as if being a vegetarian is not a simple diet, it needs quite a lot of knowledge of food and what the body needs. What about vegans, they go even further, they are vegetarian ‘extremists’. Veganism is a stricter form of vegetarianism. Vegans avoid consuming or using any animal products or by-products. The Vegan Society define veganism as “a way of living, which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of and cruelty to animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.”

Here's How Meat-Eating Made Us Human

Time Magazine recently published a report ‘Sorry Vegans: Here's How Meat-Eating Made Us Human‘, “Vegans are absolutely right when they say that a plant-based diet can be healthy, varied and exceedingly satisfying, and that—not for nothing—it spares animals from the serial torments of being part of the human food chain. All good so far. But there’s veganism and then there’s Veganism—the upper case, ideological veganism, the kind that goes beyond diet and lifestyle wisdom to a sort of counterfactual crusade. For this crowd, it has become an article of faith that not only is meat-eating bad for humans, but that it’s always been bad for humans—that we were never meant to eat animal products at all, and that our teeth, facial structure and digestive systems are proof of that”.

Many scientists say we are carnivores

A recent new study in Nature Magazine (Nature is a highly respected British weekly scientific journal) makes clear, not only did processing and eating meat come naturally to humans, it’s entirely possible that without an early diet that included generous amounts of animal protein, we wouldn’t even have become human—at least not the modern, verbal, intelligent humans we are. You can read the research here

It’s a matter of conscience rather than health

It becomes clear to me that there is no definite answer to the question, ‘is being a vegetarian good for you’. Its more a question of conscience and concern for animals and the way they are treated. I have little doubt that if I spent a couple of hours in an Abattoir (a polite word for a slaughterhouse) I might well not eat meat again. That wouldn’t stop me eating fish. Jeremy Clarkson (love him or hate hm) in his Amazon programme Clarkson’s Farm, genuinely fell in love with his herd of sheep. When three of them were sent to the abattoir, he seemed genuinely upset. But as he said, he still had lamb for lunch.


Resident in Portugal for 50 years, publishing and writing about Portugal since 1977. Privileged to have seen, firsthand, Portugal progress from a dictatorship (1974) into a stable democracy. 

Paul Luckman