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By Louise Gray

Are you a vegetarian? A vegan? A flexitarian? A feastarian? Or just an ordinary Joe fed up of being labeled for the simple act of eating? Me too.

In fact, I got so fed up of trying to explain my position on food, I took the radical decision to only eat animals I killed myself for a year. It seemed a more honest approach than constantly having to explain that yes, I eat meat. I would just like to know, for my own conscience, where it comes from.

The experience meant I had to learn to hunt, shoot and fish from scratch. I also had to learn how to skin, gut and butcher animals. I shed tears over my first kill, a rabbit, but somehow 18 months later managed to stalk and kill a red deer stag with my father (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/family/how-killing-a-stag-brought-me-closer-to-my-father/).

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I cannot pretend it wasn’t difficult but it was also often beautiful and satisfying and always honest. 

I am not suggesting that everyone should kill the animals they eat, that would be ridiculous and dangerous, but they should understand where meat is from. That is why I wrote The Ethical Carnivore, to explain to people what it is like to kill an animal. I also went into abattoirs so that readers have an understanding of how animals are processed on our behalf (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/sep/18/ethical-carnivore-how-to-be-a-guilt-free-meat-eater).

I believe that if people can truly understand where meat is from, what I call being an Ethical Carnivore, then they will want to eat less.

Eating less meat has to be part of our future. We all know that livestock cause greenhouse gas emissions, not only through the energy to raise and feed animals but through the methane emitted by ruminants. Even if you are eating your pasture-raised hamburger right now, there is an impact on the environment.

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There is also the question of welfare. We all want animals to be raised free-range, but this does mean more space and time, and that will mean a higher cost. If we want to eat high-quality meat, we need to invest money and for most of us again, that means eating less. It also means trying different cuts and I would argue it is always possible to buy good meat, even on a budget. 

The Slow Food Movement has long understood the need for less and better meat. Indeed, it is a key part of the current message ‘Love the Earth, Defend the Future’.

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I believe The Ethical Carnivore can be part of this message by showing how positive the future of reductionist meat eating can be. In the last chapter of The Ethical Carnivore, I interview vegans about their decision to cut out animal products completely. I admired them for their decision to tread more lightly on the Earth and was excited by interesting new ways to replace animal protein in our diet. I even tasted alternatives to conventional animal products such as plant proteins and even insects. 

‘Foodies’ may be attached to artisanal cheeses and traditional cuts of meat, but it does not mean that on the weekdays we can’t enjoy modern alternatives. In the US, companies like Hampton Creek, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are coming up with tasty options.

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In my local farmers’ market, you can find beef from native breed cattle, exotic lamb curry, slow-grown chicken and ‘steak’ made from plant protein. I think this diversity is the most exciting thing about the food movement right now. The decision to eat less meat for the sake of the environment does not mean restricting ourselves. On the contrary, it is leading to an explosion in creativity as people come up with alternatives. It is also encouraging people to avoid factory-farmed meat in favor of supporting higher welfare meat and caring farmers. 

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Being an Ethical Carnivore doesn’t mean preaching or denying yourself good food. It simply means caring about where your food is from, or to give it another word, being human.

The Ethical Carnivore is available now on Amazon