(5 Sep 2019) LEAD IN
Argentina is experiencing a rise in vegetarianism and veganism.
A recent online survey claims six out of every 10 Argentines are disposed to stop eating beef. This in a country where most people consume around 50 kilos of meat each year.
A fight is on over the Argentine identity, pitting a growing number of vegetarians and vegans against meat-eaters in a country known for its abundant beef, gaucho cowboys and “asado” barbecues.
A meat-free lifestyle is becomming more popular in Argentina, which traditionally battles neighboring Uruguay for world leader in per-capita beef consumption.
Rising support for vegetarianism and veganism among young and millennial Argentines, and growing militancy by activists is causing disquiet amongst the meat industry.
A recent private online questionnaire by the Institute for the Promotion of Beef found that six of every 10 Argentines are inclined to stop eating beef, a figure that alarmed ranchers who are already struggling through an economic crisis.
A recent report by Argentina’s Chamber of Commerce for Beef says Argentines are consuming on average 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of beef a year, what it called the lowest level in the history of this country, where cattle brought by the Spanish centuries ago thrived on vast prairies knows as pampas.
At La Reverde, the first vegan grill in Buenos Aires,, the house specialty resembles the country’s “bife de chorizo,” a popular cut of boneless beef cooked on a grill.
But it is really a “seitan steak,” that is made from wheat gluten and ingredients including beet puree and spices that help create a similar tone to beef.
Vegetarian diner Melissa Aruj says that vegetarianism is a growing trend, even among her family members.
“People who used to eat beef, they are now are replacing it with other foods and are becoming vegetarians. Part of my family is doing that, like my mother now. They feel better, they’ve lost weight. Their health is doing better, some have given up pills, after having becomming vegans.”
Melisa Lobo is the co-owner of an animal sanctuary an hour from Buenos Aires.
She says meat eating is cultural traditon that could wane.
“The intake of animal meat is part of the culture. Here in Argentina people love dogs and cats, in China people eat dogs and cats and in India cows are venerated. It’s a cultural matter. A person who has a dog or a cat knows that they have feelings, they love being pampered, knows that they can be thirsty, hungry, cold or wounded. Instead, being so far from these bigger animals, people don’t know. I want to believe that they don’t know about these bigger animals’ feelings. These are animals that feel. They have a central nervous system, so they can feel the pain and they can also love.”
Veganism is based on a diet free of animal products, unlike vegetarians who can accept milk or eggs.
Vegans also reject all forms of animal exploitation, whether as labor, or for clothing, cosmetics, transportation, sports or scientific experimentation.
In Buenos Aires’s Mataderos neighborhood, the white uniforms of workers in the refrigerated meat lockers are stained red from the beef arriving from the nearby slaughterhouses.
The district supplies much of the meat for the traditional “asados” that are consumed in restaurants and homes in Argentina’s capital.
The online survey was conducted by Adrián Bifaretti, head of marketing at the Institute for the Promotion of Beef.
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