What is meant by "semi-vegetarian"?
Well, basically it means I do not eat meat but am generally OK with dairy product, eggs and even fish and seafood (which real vegetarians also refuse – whereas vegans also shun any animal-related product such as milk, eggs, or even leather … too extreme for me!). Another thing is that I do make the occasional meaty exception too, namely when it's game or totally trustworthy organic and not too ethically disturbing.
To explain: my main reason for stopping eating meat was back in the late 1980s/early 90s when the BSE crisis, originating from ruthless industrial meat production in Great Britain
(basically feeding infected sheep offal to cows), started to spread across Europe. For a while it looked like a real scare, a time bomb capable of making the AIDS epidemic look like just a mere footnote in medical history. The great scare of it was that the disease proved it could cross species boundaries. And in the form of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease it did cross over to humans. The scariest case for me was that of a young woman dying from it who had been a vegetarian for ages – and still it got to her many years later. (That kind of scenario could have applied to me too – it wasn't even safe enough to stop eating meat: if you had had the "wrong" bit of meat even 15 years earlier, you could still be at risk). For a while no one could predict whether this might turn into a real civilization-threatening pandemic.
In the end it didn't. It was discovered that for humans to get infected they'd need to have a certain kind of genetic predisposition to it (and of course have eaten the wrong piece of meat). This could be seen from both regional and family clusters. Meanwhile the scare is almost forgotten – although it's not quite completely over!
But even though eating meat wouldn't have been quite so scary any more, I just carried on staying away from it. I found I felt better that way, and on the rare occasions I did have meat I could tell that my metabolism really struggled. The ethical aspect of not devouring creatures that had been murdered for the purpose comes in as an ethical bonus. But I'm not at all religious about this. More important to me is the environmental aspect
– meat production leaves such an enormous carbon footprint compared to any other foodstuff that it is ethically questionable from that perspective alone (even disregarding the killing aspect and all that). Beef in particular is a real climate
killer. Not only does the production of one kilogram of beef require disproportionately more resources – and that means carbon emissions, mainly – than, say, bread or pulses, the cattle themselves contribute an even worse climate killer gas: methane – it's their farts, to put it bluntly.
So there are many good reasons, personal, animal-welfare, environmental and general ethical points. I don't want to be preaching religiously, though or even force people to give up meat altogether. But if I got anyone to think about the whole issue a bit more and perhaps reduce their meat consumption, then I'd be happy …