Meat Free May- Helen Tandy Chester FoE

I stopped eating meat in 2001, the big news story at the time was the foot and mouth outbreak. I spent a lot of my time back then in Snowdonia, and the difference in the area proved to be a catalyst for me, empty fields devoid of all the animals that called it home, closed roads passing near farm land. This is without mentioning the shocking images that were doing the rounds on the television and in the newspapers. My younger sister had gone vegetarian as a teenager and I did cook us both vegetarian meals when we both lived at home, having somebody else similarly minded to me definitely helped.

At that point I decided I would cut out meat from my diet, but continued to eat fresh fish and seafood. I became a piscetarian.

I have never reverted back to eating meat, but that has never stopped me from preparing it for my family.

I recently visited Topaz Cafe, a vegetarian cafe in Ashton under Lyne. The cafe was set up by Tog Mind serving fantastic vegetarian food including vegetables from its own allotments. As support to the charity I gave up eating seafood for 2 weeks, instead eating only a vegetarian diet, with the end aim of making a donation. As this finished, meat free May started. So I decided to continue with the vegetarian diet for the rest of the month.


I’ve managed to survive so far, but it’s not always been easy. I have often found it very difficult to find something meat free that I can eat when out at events for my work, so spent some afternoons with a rumbling stomach. Something as simple as buying a sandwich can be quite difficult for a vegetarian, it seems like cheese, or egg and cress, are the only options for you in most stores. I have no idea how vegans manage.

Why did I do this?

“Friends of the Earth provide the following reasons for a vegetarian diet. 

It’s bad for the climate: Meat and dairy production is the biggest single contributor to climate change, causing at least 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s bad for the environment: 75% of agricultural land is usedto raise animals for food – not the most efficient use of this precious resource.

It’s bad for your health: A shift to low-meat diets in the UK could prevent 45,000 early deaths each year.”

Source: Friends of the Earth

How being a vegetarian can cut down your carbon emissions

“Livestock farming is responsible for almost 2
0% of all greenhouse gas emissions from human-related activities.

Nitrous oxide is almost 300 times as damaging to the climate as carbon dioxide and 65% of the total quantity produced by human activity comes from livestock, mostly their manure.

Methane has 25 times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide and a single cow can produce 500 litres of methane a day.

Cows and sheep are responsible for 37% of the total methane generated by human activity.

Carbon dioxide is emitted when forests are cleared for grazing or for growing grain to feed animals. Fossil fuels are used to transport animals and to power the production of their feed.”

Source: Vegetarian Society

Will I go back to eating fish?

There are definitely some pros and cons. Will I be doomed to a life of egg and cress sandwiches? I’m on the 2nd June and I know my husband is desperate for me to revert back to eating fish, purely for selfish cooking-him-meals reasons. I do know something, I have managed without meat for a very long time, and won’t be becoming a meat eater any time soon. As the environmental issues seem to relate more to meat and dairy, I can’t find a strong argument for not eating fish, as long as it’s sustainably sourced. Of course you do hear about many concerns with commercial fishing as highlighted by Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall via. his Fish Fight campaign.

My decision? I’m not sure yet… I’ll keep you posted.


Helen Tandy

Meat Free May is a campaign that challenges you to give up meat and fish for all of May. It’s a chance to spend the month experimenting in the kitchen. Mix-up your tried and tested classics and give new dishes and ingredients a go.