They march for the climate, but their commitment to the planet does not stop with the demonstrations launched by Greta Thunberg. More and more young people are also deciding to become vegetarians to limit the impact of their diet on the environment.
“The day my youngest son told me that he no longer wanted to eat meat for ecological reasons, I was impressed that at 14 you could make such a decision., says Florence, mother of two boys aged 15 and 20. He had seen a report on battery hens and was very shocked by the living conditions of the animals and the ecological effects of this type of breeding. “
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Even if it remains marginal, vegetarianism is progressing in the whole population and particularly among young people. According to a survey by FranceAgriMer, carried out in four European countries, including France, 12% of 18-24 year olds declare themselves to be vegetarians, vegans or vegans, against 2% for those over 55. (read below).
“The phenomenon is difficult to quantify but all the studies show that vegetarianism in connection with environmental concerns increases among young people, confirms Jean-Michel Lecerf, nutritionist at the Institut Pasteur in Lille (1). These are often flexitarian or pesco-vegetarian diets (with fish). And we know that there are sometimes flashbacks but it is a trend. “
Vegetarians are thus more numerous among young people invested in the “climate generation”, according to the study by the group of researchers Critical quantity, carried out for The beginning of the cross. “They are committed young people, who position themselves politically more on the left and who practice other eco-gestures”, details Yann Le Lann, lecturer in sociology at the University of Lille and coordinator of the collective. “There are more girls than boys but, contrary to popular belief, this practice is not more important in the advantaged social categories. “
Risk of deficiencies
Madeleine, a law student and climate walker, became a vegetarian at the age of 13. “I have never liked meat too much but the day I saw a report on slaughterhouses, I was definitely disgusted with it, confides the young girl. Speaking with a vegetarian aunt, I understood that we could do without. And then I also stopped the fish. At first my parents thought it was a fad. Then seeing that I did not change my mind, they were afraid that I would run out of protein and be tired. “
The fear is legitimate and shared by many parents but the vegetarian diet actually poses “Few problems in terms of protein intake”, assures Jean-Michel Lecerf. It is consumed in sufficient quantity, sometimes even too much. ” However, he warns, vegetarianism can be a source of fairly significant iron deficits, especially in young girls, and calcium if one shuns dairy products. However, it is in adolescence that the peak in bone mass is formed, which will be decisive for the risk of fractures. “
→ TESTIMONIALS. Flexitarian, pesco-vegetarian… These young people who have changed their diet
The nutritionist also points to vitamin B12 deficiencies, for those who do not eat enough eggs or dairy products, and omega 3, “Fatty acids essential for brain growth”, when fish is not on the menu. Risks “Much higher still, he warns, with the vegan diet which excludes any product of animal origin ‘.
Mark a break with parents
“Often motivated by the conditions of animal husbandry, vegetarianism appeals to adolescents all the more because they have a“ need for an ideal ”, notes the child psychiatrist Stéphane Clerget (2). Even if, he said, we can also take a “more psychoanalytic” reading of this commitment. Behind vegetarianism, there is sometimes the concern to control impulses and in particular an impulse in connection with oral aggressiveness, which is expressed in the fact of eating animals, he analyzes. This feeling is all the more painful for the adolescent as he experiences a general instinctual awakening and may want to stifle this aggressiveness. ”
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Becoming vegetarian is also a way to “stand out” and of ” mark a breakwith the parents “, highlightedAgainthe child psychiatrist. Today, the teenage crisis no longer necessarily involves verbal conflict or running away, as it used to be, and eating differently can crystallize opposition and a need for emancipation. “
Practices that change family habits
Whatever the springs of the process, the change of diet often upsets family meals. So Florence felt helpless when it came to cooking the first vegetarian meals for her son. “I was worried that I wouldn’t give it all the nutrients it needs to grow. “ Without counting, she said, “That I had to prepare a different meal” for my oldest son and me. After a few weeks of trial and error, her children decided to give her a cookbook and since then, this Parisian has also become a pesco-vegetarian. “I did it quite naturally because I don’t like meat very much but also out of ecological conviction. “
Can Eating Less Meat Really Save the Planet? We know that greenhouse gas emissions from food represent 24% of households’ carbon footprint, according to the Ecological Transition Agency (Ademe). But the question of breeding is complex, recalls Jean-Michel Lecerf. “Raising animals also has positive aspects, such as the production of natural fertilizers, animal traction in some countries, the subsistence of populations, he enumerates. We can reduce our meat consumption when it is excessive and review production methods but eliminate breeding unfortunately seems illusory to me. ”
The different regimes
5.2% of French people say they are vegetarians, vegans or vegans. They were 0.7%
in 1998, according to Crédoc.
Flexitarian diet. Flexitarians limit the consumption of meat without excluding it.
Vegetarian diet. Vegetarians do not eat meat or fish, but consume eggs, cheese and milk.
Pesco-vegetarian diet. Pesco-vegetarians follow the vegetarian diet but add fish to it.
Vegan or vegan diet. Vegans remove all animal products from their diet, including dairy products and eggs. Vegans, for their part, follow the same diet but with a militant dimension since they also refuse products from animal exploitation such as leather, wool and silk.