Compass Group, the world's largest food-service company, has implemented a program to encourage people to eat less meat.
The Humane Society of the United States worked with the company on the campaign.
The move will affect Compass Group's "8,500 U.S. corporate and academic food service cafeterias."
Although I don't know how many dishes will be vegan (vs. vegetarian), normally I'd applaud such a move. But I can't fully support this initiative because of its name: "Be a Flexitarian."
Now, The HSUS and Compass Group could have named this campaign anything (or nothing). I'm not going to brainstorm ideas. But it could have revolved around health or the environment or "Meat-Free" something-or-other.
But instead they chose to publicize the notion of being a flexitarian.
I first came upon that word in an interview with actress Anne Hathaway. Her 2008 "Becoming Jane" co-star James Cromwell is vegan, and Hathaway told the reporter she's "flexitarian," which I took to mean she sometimes eats vegetarian food and sometimes eats meat. This diet is nothing new. In fact, it's the definition of an omnivore.
But by giving our standard American diet a new name -- flexitarian -- it makes people think they're doing something good, something hip. They're making a difference. "At this meal, I'm not going to eat meat. But at this other meal, it's ok if I eat meat. I'm a flexitarian, after all."
The American Dialect Society voted "flexitarian" as 2003's most useful word and defined it as "a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat." Vegetarians don't eat meat. Period. So not only is the word useless, but it's also nonsense.
It's sort of like me deciding that two-thirds of the time (or any other fraction) I'm going to be sensitive to other people's differences. But when I feel like it, I'm going to be racist and homophobic. Because I'm flexible like that.
If you're an omnivore who doesn't think you can go vegetarian (or vegan) all at once -- although the vegetarian part is pretty easy, in my opinion -- and wants to reduce your meat consumption, that's great.
If you want to label yourself, call yourself an omnivore who is trying to go vegetarian (or vegan). That phrase connotes someone who is actively looking to improve herself (and/or the world). A "flexitarian" implies you're not attempting to improve anything and are proud of that fact.
(Image courtesy of The Globe and Mail.)