Flexitarians: another stupid label

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‘Flexitarians’: Vegetarians who eat meat

I’ll say this one more time: if you eat meat, don’t claim you’re a vegetarian.

Sometimes I feel like labels and classifications just get in the way of the real issues, but if the terms vegetarian and vegan are not very clearly delineated in people’s minds, then vegetarians are going to continue to be served soups based on chicken stock in restaurants because servers or chefs don’t know any better.

To avoid being flogged by meat-eating visitors, I should also repeat this: yes, I think cutting that any effort made to cut back on meat is a good thing. It’s this ambiguous labeling that I have an issue with.

20 Responses to “Flexitarians: another stupid label”

  1. Barrett

    I think you may be focusing on the vegetarians who don’t eat meat for moral reasons. There are many of us who are vegetarians more out of health concerns, because a loved one is a vegetarian, or for political reasons (eating lower on the food chain being a more efficient use of land).

    I’m a fish-itarian. That is, a mostly vegetarian who eats fish. I also have turkey at Xmas and Thanksgiving just to make things easier. I may not meet the qualification of a “true” vegetarian, but unless you’re a vegan, who really IS a “true” vegetarian?

  2. Ryan

    Barrett — Good point re: moral v.s. health reasons. I’ve said in the past that vegetarians who are so for health reasons are more likely to have meat once in a while as a “treat” or some such, and they indeed wouldn’t care if chicken stock was used in soup, for instance. So, yes, perhaps that’s who the label is most directed towards.

    Then again, terms such as vegetarian and vegan exist to differentiate diets from a meat-centric diet in the same way that Kosher differentiates a food’s preparation from the “standard” fashion… in that respect, I’m still more comfortable with the idea of the words “vegetarian” and “vegan” sticking with their dictionary definitions (vegetarian being someone who doesn’t eat meat of any sort but may eat dairy or egg products and a vegan being someone who eats no animal products and strives to not use animal products outside of their diet as well). To me, it just seems easier that way.

    (I took at look at your site — well done!)

  3. persephone

    I agree with what Ryan said. There are good definitions for vegetarian and vegan and such, but what the heck qualifies someone as a flexitarian? How little meat does one need to consume to fit the label? It’s good that people are cutting back on meat and all, but why do they need a special label to tell people that? Can’t they just say that they are cutting back on meat?

    I label myself a vegetarian because I want people to know that I don’t want any dead animal flesh served to me under any circumstances. I am proud of the fact that I have never deliberately eaten meat. I am pissed that I have on occasion consumed animal flesh unwittingly due to hidden ingrediants; mostly the slips happened when I was a child, but it is still quite hard to find out if something is vegetarian or not at a time. It would be so much easier if other people acutally understood what a vegetarian was.

    Umm.. the actual reason I was commenting was just to point out how idiotic the Mollie Katzen quote in that article is. How healthy and happy can a chicken be when it is cut into pieces sitting on your plate?

  4. Maybe Tomorrow

    a healthy happy chicken?

    I have to wonder just how healthy and happy a chicken can be when it is cut into pieces and sitting on your plate.

  5. Barrett

    Persephone, I use vegetarian for much the same reason you do. I try to avoid meat almost all the time. If I do indulge, it’s a conscious decision and not taken lightly.

    I’ll never forget when I asked a host for a recipe for a lentil soup she served to be veg-friendly since she knew I’d be at the party. “First, you take some chicken stock,” she started.

  6. Tim

    While I agree that people who eat any kind of meat are not vegetarians, I feel it’s much harder to draw the line with vegans. For example, is honey considered an animal product? If so, then a ‘true vegan’ could not eat it. What of coloring in foods that are basically ground up bugs? My point is that it’s ALL fuzzy, no matter what words or semanitcs we use.

  7. ester

    If the introduction of the term flexitarian means that non-vegetarians stop calling themselves vegetarians, then I’m all for it.

  8. Joshua

    Some disjointed thoughts…

    If I smoke one cigarette each year, and I am asked whether I am a smoker or non-smoker, how shall I answer?

    I am vegan, but I know that every breath I take, I inhale tiny little organisms.

    It is annoying when I tell people I’m vegan and they say do you eat fish? I’m like, “NO!”

    It is annoying when people say they are vegetarians but that they eat chicken and fish.

  9. Ryan

    1. I’d say a non-smoker, but I see where you’re going…

    2. Being vegan is not about being perfect, but it’s about consciously doing your best. Just like being fed something you’re told is vegan but finding out later it had milk in it doesn’t all of a sudden revoke your vegan “status,” if you will.

    3 and 4. I feel you.

  10. Shannon

    I would have to agree with you in that flexitarian is such a confusing word. Until receintly I was a strict vegitarian, then I had soup made with chicken broth. It is really fustrating for those types of things to happen. That is why I believe the concept of a flexitarian is so wonderful, because it takes pressure off a vegitarian. I don’t know how many times a meat eater has delited in telling me when I unknowingly consumed and animal product.

  11. sarah

    i would like to say that i am a flexitarian, because as of right now, i am a highly active teen who needs a lot of protein and something to eat without my family having to make a separate meal for me!! i eat chicken and occasionaly turkey along with some seafood but i havent touched any type of pork or beef in about 2 years! i need the protien that chicken gives me, but as soon as im living on my own im going to be a fishitarian because then i make my own meals. I am a part of PETA and i believe very strongly about what they are doing, but aslong as i am with my family i am forced to make a sacrefice!

  12. Fallon

    I am a 17 year old that is a “flexitarian”. I don’t classify myself as a vegitarian because of the fact I’m not one to fallow a sertin way of life. I’m spontanious or like to be at least. I hate meat when it comes to beef and pork. Fish is one thing and poltry is a nuther. I don’t want to be catorgorized as any spusiffic catigory. I don’t judge people on what they eat or the way they act. So please don’t do it to me or other people! Thanks

  13. Ryan

    Am I allowed to judge you for the most amazing spelling I’ve ever witnessed?

  14. Cheyenne

    I am a full on vegan. Not labeling myself as anything more or less. I don’t consume any animal products whatso ever, and for all of you who just cut back on beef or pork for health but still eat chicken, seafood, etc. It is just as bad for you. They are still fed antibiotics to promote pre-mature growth. Fish are still radio-active. For those who do it for the animals and still eat chicken they are not any less important then cows or pigs,they are still birds. I agree strongly with persephone in how she said if you eat any kind of meat whatso ever, your not vegetarian. Classifying yourself as a vegetarian is just to make yourself seem commited and responsible. PLease dont take credit for what you can not do or do not do. Simply say you dont consume beef or pork but eat poultry. I am fourteen years old and have been a strong vegan for three years now. Some would say I am mature for my age, and that may be true considering my being vegan. Noone else in my family is vegetarian or vegan yet I am really comitted. Saying you eat only poultry beacause noone in your family is vegetarian or you need protien is absurd, and that is just an excuse people use to relive the guilt when eating meat. There are plenty of ways to get protien other than from meat and if you look it up I am most certain you will agree. I am just commenting to say that classifications should only be used when in direct context….and dont take credit for something you can’t or dont do.

  15. five17

    Carmine is the name of the colour “consisting of the dried bodies of female cochineal insects.” They use it quite a bit in fruit juices/drinks that are going into small bottles (not enough density for the red to be red enough?)

  16. Lazurii

    I am a flexitarian. My husband and I are transitioning to being more-so, for health reasons and some ethical. I do not claim to be a vegetarian. If I use the word vegetarian to describe myself, then I modify it with “mostly”.

    I can understand the frustration that true vegetarians and vegans have when they are served animal products, expecially because it seems that flexitarians make it easier for that to happen. And I apologize. But perhaps the blame should not be on those who try to have an accurate label, but on those that mislead with inaccuarate labels, whether intentionally or not.

  17. Lazurii

    This is an ammendment to my previous post.

    The hubby and I have just started this (two months? I can’t remember…), but we’re aiming to only eat meat a few times a year, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. I feel that you have meat one or more times in an average week, then you don’t quite qualify for the label.

    Just my two cents.

  18. Billy

    I think being a Flexitarian has more to do with a state of mind than if you eat 2 meals a week with meat vs. if you eat 5 meals etc. It’s a valid label – as valid as being a Vegetarian, Ovo Vegetarian, Lacto Vegetarian, Ovo Lacto Vegetarian, Vegan, Fruitatarian, etc. Flexitarians want to bring more vegetarian meals into their lives by choice.

    There may be a miriad of reasons for doing so: health, political, environmental, animal rights, etc. But whatever the reason, they are trying to eat vegetarian as a means to doing something better for themselves, and consciously or unconsciously for the world as a whole.

    Now I can understand the Vegetarian/Vegan position about us “diluting” your way of life. And I would never call myself a Vegetarian – I’ve called myself a Part-Time Vegetarian :) If I’ve diluted the meaning of your vegetarianism, I apologize. But at the same time, there are a lot of Vegetarians/Vegans/Fruititarians who belittle my label… and thus my life choices… as a Flexitarian.

    Shouldn’t we really just be encouraging each other to eat less meat… and do something better for ourselves, animals, the environment. After all, even though Flexitarians may not be as committed as Vegans and Vegetarians – they most likely share some of the same values.

    Either that, or we could just fight amongst ourselves – Fruititarians hating on the Vegans – Vegans hating on the Vegetarians – Lactos hating on the Ovos – And all of y’all hating on the Flexitarians.

    And all the while, the carnivores will be grinning… and laughing… with their toothy smiles…

    Either way… I’ll still be mostly meat free, Flexitarian, Part-Time Vegetarian, whatever… just doing my thing.

  19. jane

    thank you billy!! i too am a flexitarian- i dont think its right to blame flexitarians for people not understanding the definitions of vegetarian, vegan, etc.
    people just need more information- unless you are researching for yourself about becoming vegetarian etc, you will prob never hear about it- not much is ever said in school, and its not a hot topic on tv shows or in papers, so how are people supposed to know?
    if people had more information, less stupid questions would be asked-
    vegetarian organizations need to step up on getting information out to the masses- how many meat comercials do you see while watching tv vs how many vegeatarian comercials???
    someone needs to lobby to have types of vegetariansim discussed in local school heath classes etc.
    labels arent making things harder for anyone- the lack of information is

  20. Maddy

    I am a strict vegetarian. I do not eat white or red meat. I don’t eat gelitian which limits a lot of candy, yogurt, and other unexpected things. I am 11 and have been a vegetarian since I was 9. Nobody else in my family is a vegetarian, though my mom trys to make vegetarian meals to accommodate me. Even during holidays I stay vegetarian, but sometimes I don’t get a full meal. I am a vegetarian because of ethical standpoint, not health reasons. I am quite small and skinny but my diet has not affected me poorly. I do have circles under my eyes even when I get a lot of sleep which is said to be a symptom of lack of protein. Anyway, the reason I made this post was to talk about flexitarians. I have a beef with them. Yes, I do think that all animal activists should encourage each other and be supportive of the saving of animals, but I do not think that a flexitarians is a real thing. From what I have read, a flexitarian is someone who is trying to alter their diet to accommodate vegetarian standards, but is not committed enough to make the change. Kudos on trying to become healthier and more animal friendly, but don’t label yourself because you have nothing *to* label. You are simply trying to help, not make commitment.

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