An economic vegetarian is a person who practices vegetarianism from either the philosophical viewpoint that the consumption of meat is expensive, part of a conscious simple living strategy or just because of necessity. In the developing world, where large numbers of poor people might not be averse to eating meat, they are regularly forced to not eat it, since meat can often be a luxury.
Economic vegetarians believe that nutrition can be acquired more efficiently and at a lower price through vegetables, grains, etc., rather than from meat. They argue that a vegetarian diet is rich in vitamins, dietary fiber, and complex carbohydrates, and carries with it fewer risks (such as heart disease, obesity, and bacterial infection) than animal flesh. Consequently, they consider the production of meat economically unsound.
Some vegetarians are motivated by a lifestyle of simple living or adopt vegetarianism through necessity. For example, in the United Kingdom, necessity changed dietary habits during the period around World War II and the early 1950s, as animal products were strictly rationed and allotment or home-grown fruit and vegetables were readily available. In developing countries people sometimes follow a mainly vegetarian diet simply because meat is scarce or expensive compared to alternative food sources. The same principle can also be a deciding factor in influencing the diet of low-income households in the Western world. However, since the price of meat has dropped in recent years (mainly due to intensive factory farming, increased competition and improved overall affluence) the percentage of people in the West who are now vegetarian through forced necessity is relatively low.
Economic vegetarians frequently contrast themselves with mainstream vegetarians, most of whom abstain from animal products on religious or ethical grounds. Conversely, they may also be vegetarian for these other reasons, and there may be significant overlap between these beliefs (e.g. between economic and environmental vegetarians).
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- Home Front Handbook, pp. 46–47.
- Artificial food? Food for thought by 2050 from guardian.co.uk