Do vegetarians eat meat? Can you be a vegetarian who still eats meat sometimes? What is a "flexitarian"?
Wondering what the word "flexitarian" or semi-vegetarian means or why some vegetarians say they eat meat? Are you curious about a flexitarian diet? Maybe you already are a flexitarian or "semi-vegetarian" and don't even know it! Here's an easy and simple definition of a flexitarian.
Answer: What is a flexitarian?
Can vegetarians eat meat? 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.
See also: What exactly is a vegetarian?
So, some vegetarians eat meat?
No. Vegetarians do not eat meat. A flexitarian or a semi-vegetarian is not a vegetarian. Let me repeat that to be 100% clear: If you are a flexitarian, a semi-vegetarian or a pescetarian, you are not vegetarian.
See also: Is fish vegetarian?
Many vegetarians strongly resent the use of the term flexitarian, 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, because, 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. Sorry, flexitarians. Us vegetarians are glad you're reducing your meat consumption - the animals and the earth and your children thank you - but every time we're brought a dish of pasta with shrimp or told that "my vegetarian friend eats chicken, why don't you?", we blame you just a little bit, flexitarians of the world.
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 pescetarianism, 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 a long-time vegan advocate and thought-leader, 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.