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The UN Environment Programme published a study this week, entitled Our Nutrient World, which argues that people in the developed world eat far too much meat. Intensive meat production, it says, requires large amounts of fertilisers to grow grain for fodder, which leads to “a web of water and air pollution that is damaging human health”. Our lust for cheap meat is unsustainable, the study asserts, and fuels a trade in undocumented livestock and mislabelled cheap ready meals that has, for example, led to the current European horsemeat scandal.

According to the lead author of the study, Professor Mark Sutton of the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, one solution is for people to halve their consumption of meat, to become demitarians (a semi-blend of vegetarian with the prefix demi-, a half). Professor Sutton is credited with having coined the term, which first appeared in print in the title of the 2009 Barsac Declaration about ways to reduce usage of nitrogen fertilisers in Europe.

Dr Sutton ... and the other scientists involved in the project have signed an agreement pledging to be “demitarians” or eat half as much meat. He said the idea was to encourage people to cut down rather than go vegetarian completely. “We are not saying do not eat meat full stop,” he said.

Daily Telegraph, 11 Apr. 2011.

He said a good aim was to be demitarian, halving the amount of meat normally eaten. This would also benefit health, as Europeans currently consume 70% more protein per day on average than is needed.

MSN News, 18 Feb. 2013.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

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Last modified: 2 March 2013.