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Meat vs. vegetarian consumption: Debunking the 6 most common myths

As long as vegetarianism has existed, there have been myths around this diet preference, some of which are more general and others that are specific to Muslim communities.

This Ramadan as part of the Eco-Ramadan campaign, Islamic Relief is launching the #meatfree fortnight challenge.

With that in mind, we’re here to debunk some of the myths and misconceptions around going meat-free. Prepare to be shocked!


Myth #1: Protein is only found in meat

One of the greatest myths around going vegetarian is that you will lack the healthy amount of protein needed in your diet.

However, despite the controversy around this, the claim that protein cannot be found in other foods is simply a myth.

Sure, meat is a rich source of protein; however, protein can also be gained from nuts, grains vegetables and even dairy (that’s if you’re not vegan!).

Protein can easily be added to your diet – it’s not exclusive to meat. Take a look at these 40 high-protein vegetarian meals if you don’t believe us!


Myth #2: Vegetarian food lacks versatility

If there is one thing which could not be further from the truth is that vegetarian food is not versatile or is boring.

And if the frenzy around the Greggs’ vegan sausage roll is anything to go by, the reality is that in almost every cuisine there are delicious vegetarian options people can choose from.

Even restaurants are catching onto this demand, so you can enjoy a tasty vegetarian meal out with friends and family too.

So, contrary to common belief, going meat-free doesn’t mean only eating salad! Rather it’s crispy falafels, sag aloo, lentil Baked Ziti (pasta) and much, much more!

So, the problem is not necessarily with the lack of options, but rather our willingness to be curious and try new foods. Take the plunge!

Why not start by checking out our North-African iftar vegetarian soup and these three delicious Palestinian appetisers. Yummy!


Myth #3: Meat is halal so should be priority

It is true that meat is halal, however Islam teaches us that The Prophet had a predominately vegetarian diet.

Meat was a rare luxury eaten at special times of the year such as Eid al-Adha, while looking after Allah’s planet is a must.

Being vegetarian and a Muslim should not be deemed as taboo. However, unfortunately many of us have gone astray from this Sunnah and teachings.

Today, meat is often the staple ingredient in a Muslim household’s diet – to the detriment of the planet. Here in the UK for example, Muslims – whilst constituting only 5% of the UK population – account for 20% of meat consumption in the UK.

This is harming our planet and, some would say, harming our bodies as well, so it needs to change.


Myth #4: Eating meat doesn’t affect climate change

From farm to fork, meat consumption has a devastating impact on the climate. Masses of C0₂ emissions are released from the production, travel and disposal of meat and its packaging.

In fact, livestock farming produces 20 to 50% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Cattle and other livestock produce waste gases such as methane which are harmful to the environment and estimated to be 84 times more harmful than CO₂.

As well as producing harmful gases, farming animals requires land, which often results in deforestation as we rid our land of plants that process CO₂ and other gases into oxygen.

Then, there’s the environmental damage caused by the process of getting our meat from farm to plate.

Today, over 80% of land mammals are now either livestock (cows, sheep etc.) or us: meat-eating, high-consuming, polluting humans.

This is why our dependency on meat drastically needs to be overhauled.


Myth #5: Your workouts will suffer

One of the most quoted misconceptions around a vegetarian diet is that that a meat-free diet will negatively affect your workouts and ability to exercise.

However, research suggests otherwise as a vegetarian diet can increase muscular development.

Indeed, many professional athletes have become vegetarian or vegan claiming its health benefits. This includes a heap of well-known figures such as Lewis Hamilton, Lionel Messi, Serena and Venus Williams, Mike Tyson and David Haye to name just a few.


Myth #6: Eating too much meat does no harm

Many people have meat in their diets because they believe meat is rich in protein and other nutrients.

However, a lesser-known fact is that (high) meat consumption can have a serious impact on your health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has described processed meat as a carcinogen – and stated that its consumption can increase your chances of developing certain cancers such as colon and rectum cancer by 18%. Contrary to common belief, it’s not just processed meat that is bad for you – red meat can also be unhealthy and so can white meat which has traditionally been seen as healthier.

In 2011, scientists estimated that around three in every 100 cancers in the UK were due to eating too much red and processed meat – that’s around 8,800 cases every year.

Meat consumption has been widely linked to cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes. Indeed, a daily diet of saturated meat increases your chances of diabetes by 30% and cardiovascular/heart disease by 15%.

Meat has also been linked to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Research shows that eating just 25g of processed meat per day increases your risk of dementia by 44% and Alzheimer’s by 51%.

This is something we should not turn a blind eye to, especially considering that many of these health conditions have an increased prevalence in BAME communities. For instance, when it comes to type two diabetes south Asians are six times more likely to develop the disease.

The same trend is also true for cardiovascular disease. In fact, heart attacks are also higher among South Asian groups at an earlier age – and death rates from cardiovascular disease are approximately 50% higher.

Our bodies are an amanah from Allah (SWT) – a sacred trust given to us. We should protect our health and therefore try our best to adopt a healthier diet such as a vegetarian one.

This will ultimately help both the planet and all of Creation.


The fact is that climate change is having a devastating impact on the earth and as Muslims, it is our responsibility as the Custodians of the earth to be at the forefront of climate action.

Albert Einstein once famously stated:

Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.

We recognise the grave health and climatic impact of meat consumption.  And this why in recognising this fundamental component of our faith, Islamic Relief has launched the #meatfreefortnight challenge.

By asking you to go meat-free for the last two weeks of Ramadan, the challenge works to protect the environment and debunk harmful beliefs.

What’s more, by getting involved you’ll also be raising funds for communities directly affected by the climate crisis.

So why not sign up today and help protect Allah’s beautiful Creation? It’ll be a beautiful Ramadan blessing!


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