The Rise of Semitarianism

Can small, largely symbolic changes to our diet, like Paul McCartney's Meat Free Mondays, actually make a difference?

It's not just because vegan food looks like poo or that PETA had tried to rebrand fish as "sea kittens" that I have a hard time embracing veganism. I think foods can show respect and consideration for animals. And this is a food column, after all-the distinct flavors of fresh oysters, spring honey, or a grassy-tasting hamburger are at stake. As Mark Bittman, the New York Times writer and author of Food Matters, told WNYC: When his doctor suggested that he become a vegan, he said, "You know what I do for a living. That's a joke."But my professional obligations aside, full-time veganism remains a lifestyle choice for the few in America-it requires a lot of work and is not without its own ethical ambiguities. Because vegan diets can lack vitamins B-12 and D, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids, getting adequate nutrition can be challenging (and has even led to the death of children at the hands of misinformed parents). There are ecological problems, too. Close to 90 percent of soy is genetically modified and the expansion of soy acreage abroad has led to the clear-cutting of fragile ecosystems.The factor of taste has also limited veganism's appeal. The combination of fermented soybeans and fish, common in Asia, doesn't always sit well with Americans. Paul Levy, a former restaurant critic at The Observer in London, writes that Western taste buds may never learn to love the flavor of soy because of its distinct "beaniness." And then there are the social costs. Even without traveling abroad, Jonathan Safran Foer, a vegetarian and author of the forthcoming nonfiction book Eating Meat, told The Young and Hungry, "Veganism is hard. It separates you from a lot of social occasions…. Eating as a vegan would preclude a lot of restaurants and a lot of occasions."Veganism seems destined to remain a marginal lifestyle choice. But at the same time, there's an increasing consensus that dietary decisions-and avoiding meat in particular-can reduce our impact upon the planet, especially when it comes to water use.In this environment, a new trend towards moderate meat-free living could change the stereotypes about conscious eating and make the movement more palatable to the mainstream. The idea is part-time veganism, or vegetarianism. It seems less militant than its forebears and less concerned with abstract conceptions of animal rights. While hard-core vegans who forgo honey may reject any compromise (one PETA spokesperson saidvegan before six o'clock (VB6), forgoing meats and white bread until dinner (and then, apparently, going to town on cheese), because of a U.N. study about industrial meat production showing that 18 percent of greenhouse gases come from livestock production and also because of his doctors' recommendations.The town of Ghent, Belgium, also heeded the U.N.'s call for ordinary citizens to combat climate change by forgoing meat once a week. Officials hope to make Thursdays Veggiedag, a day encouraging vegetarianism with meat-free school lunches and activities.Another once-a-week event is the Paul McCartney-endorsed "Meat Free Mondays," a riff on Meatless Monday run by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. According to the center's math, if everyone in the nation ate tofu instead of beef, we could save the same amount of fuel it would take to make 1,214,773 round-trips to the moon by car.The Atlantic Online calls this trend toward being a sometimes-vegetarian "semitarianism" and says it's different from "flexitarianism," forgoing meat to save money. These semitarian options seem far more palatable than going completely vegan. Moreover, the cumulative effect of semitarianism could be significant in encouraging personal diet changes that-while largely symbolic-can spur broader institutional changes. There's no doubt that we need to find better ways to treat animals, the land, and the ocean. Eating a little less meat every week may only be a small part of the solution to our problematic meat production system, but it's putting a much-needed discussion about ethical eating on the table.

When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

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via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

On Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted about some favorable economic numbers, claiming that annual household income is up, unemployment is low, and housing prices are high.

Now, just imagine how much better those numbers would be if the country wasn't mired in an economy-killing trade war with China, bleeding out trillion-dollar-a-year debts, and didn't suffer from chaotic leadership in the Oval Office?

At the end of tweet, came an odd sentence, "Impeach the Pres."

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October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

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At this point most reasonable people agree that climate change is a serious problem. And while a lot of good people are working on solutions, and we're all chipping in by using fewer plastic bags, it's also helpful to understand where the leading causes of the issue stem from. The list of 20 leading emitters of carbon dioxide by The Guardian newspaper does just that.

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via International Labour Organization / Flickr and Michael Moore / Facebook

Before the release of "The Joker" there was a glut of stories in the media about the film's potential to incite violence.

The FBI issued a warning, saying the film may inspire violence from a group known as the Clowncels, a subgroup of the involuntarily celibate or Incel community.

Incels an online subculture who believe they are unable to attract a sexual partner. The American nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center describes them as "part of the online male supremacist ecosystem" that is included in its list of hate groups.

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