The rise of meatless meat has accompanied a lot of other interesting trends in vegan and vegetarian advocacy. For decades, advocates have tried to raise awareness of factory farming and convince people to go vegetarian or vegan. But rates of vegetarianism and veganism remain pretty low surveys find that many vegetarians still eat meat sometimes, and advocates have begun looking at other ways to combat factory farming.
That’s the change in thinking that has driven the rise of Meatless Mondays. These are campaigns aimed at serving meat-free meals once a week in schools and offices. The idea is that going meatless one day a week does a seventh as much good as going meatless full time — and if you can persuade seven times as many people to commit to it, then it’s a better bet.
Another proposal to reduce meat consumption is taxing meat. This would allow us to accurately account for its effects on the environment but which would disproportionately affect low-income people. A more moderate version of the proposal is to just stop subsidizing meat.
Currently, the US spends an estimated $20 billion a year on subsidizing agribusinesses, and much of that goes toward feed for animals. Commentators on both the left and the right have called for an end to this giveaway.
But there is, as you might have noticed, a common thread here. Many of these other approaches to reducing meat consumption work a lot better if there’s a good alternative right there for consumers to switch to. Increasing the costs of beef will affect consumers less if there are cheap products nearly identical to beef. Voluntary diet change to stop climate change is a lot easier if people can replace favorite foods with options that are just as tasty.
Ultimately, all the ways of reducing meat consumption are much simpler to make progress on if there are good meat alternatives.