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What is a "flexitarian"?


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Question: What is a "flexitarian"?

Wondering what the word "flexitarian" or semi-vegetarian means? Are you curious about a flexitarian diet? Maybe you already are a flexitarian and don't even know it! Here's an easy and simple definition of a flexitarian.

Answer: What is a flexitarian? You don’t have to be vegetarian to love vegetarian food! “Flexitarian” is a term recently coined to describe those who eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but occasionally eat meat. Many people who call themselves "flexitarian" or "semi-vegetarian" have given up red meat for health reasons while others, for environmental reasons, only eat free-range or organic animals and animal products.

So, some vegetarians eat meat?

No. Vegetarians do not eat meat. A flexitarian or a semi-vegetarian is not a vegetarian. Many vegetarians strongly resent the use of this term, because headlines such as “Meat-eating vegetarian” confuse and dilute the definition of a true vegetarian diet. Most vegetarians are not big fans of the flexitarian diet, as well, it's not vegetarian, yet somehow causes plenty of confusion! Many vegetarians have been told that "some vegetarians eat meat..." as they are being served a plate of chicken, having requested a vegetarian meal. This is a problem, because vegetarians, again, do not eat meat.

What, exactly, does flexitarian mean?

So, what is a flexitarian diet? "Flexitarian" is used to describe a diet or a person who eats a "mostly" vegetarian diet, occasionally including meat. But what exactly does this mean? Does it mean once a week? Once a day? It's really up to you, as there is no standard agreement or definition, though perhaps someday there will be.

The word "flexitarian" has been around for a while, but hit the mainstream with the publication of the book, The Flexitarian Diet in 2008. CNN, MSNBC and Newsweek have all covered the flexitarian trend. But in true 21st century fashion, the real signifier that flexitarians are here to stay, is that they have their own Facebook group.


Is a flexitarian/semi-vegetarian the same as a pescatarian?

Flexitarianism differs from pescatarianism, which is a diet that includes the animal flesh of fish only, along with vegetarian foods. So, while a pescatarian will only eat fish, but as much fish as they'd like, a flexitarian may eat any type of meat, but only on an occasional basis. This means that a pescatarian who occasionally eats fish may be a flexitarian, but a flexitarian is not necessarily a pescatarian, as they may be eating chicken, pork, beef, frogs legs or chocolate covered ants.


So what's the big deal?

Opponents say there's no such thing as "mostly" vegetarian, just as there's no such thing as being "mostly" pregnant. By simple definition of terms, you cannot be a meat-eating vegetarian; just like you cannot create a 4-sided triangle, no matter how hard you might try. Period.

Problematically, all of the arguments in favor of adopting a flexitarian diet (health, environment, reduction of resource consumption) are really arguments in favor of adopting a fully vegetarian diet.


The bottom line is this:

Flexitarianism has been popping up more and more in the media, so no longer can vegetarians just wish the word would go away. However, as PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich says, "If people influenced by health consequently cut back on fish and meat consumption that helps animals. If two people cut their meat in half it helps as much as one person going completely vegetarian." In other words, as a flexitarian, one is still taking a huge positive step forward for health, the environment and the animals.

And that's a great thing.

See also: Types of Vegetarians

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