On the heels of the terms vegetarian, vegan, and carnivore, as well as the less familiar locavore, pescatarian, pollotarian and ovo-lacto vegetarian, comes a new coinage for these confused and confusing times: flexitarian.
Flexitarians integrate meatless meals into their diets but aren’t full-time vegetarians; they seek to decrease their meat consumption without totally eliminating it (an alternate term would be semi-vegetarian). There’s even a new crop of flexitarian cookbooks (which seems silly, because what’s the difference between a flexitarian cookbook and a regular cookbook?).
I totally understand some vegetarians and vegans insist that “eating less meat” does not exactly merit a new word. But if the U.S. reduced its overall meat consumption by, say, a quarter, wouldn’t that be a tremendous benefit to millions of animals as well our health and that of the planet? Isn’t it sensible to start with where people are, instead of expecting them to change completely? Certainly it’s unrealistic to imagine that Americans will lose their taste for meat overnight.
The quotable Joel Salatin doesn’t much care for the old saw that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. He proposes an alternative: If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly. His idea is to give perfection a rest and simply try to integrate something new into one’s life. I’m not trying to say that flexitarians are doing something badly, but rather that they’re doing something, and that the thing they’re doing is positive.
However, I think the term flexitarian deserves an etymological sibling, so I propose yet another new coinage: humane-itarian. Humane-itarians only eat meat from animals that have been humanely raised and slaughtered. For me, since such meat is so difficult to come by, humane-itarian winds up meaning “95% vegetarian.”