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Hang Ups

Tomorrow sees the launch of Vegetarian Week a concerted attempt to convince us that if we went veggie we'd be happier, healthier, greener and, according to one suggestive poster which features a full-frontal courgette, sexier.

The National Vegetarian Society seems to be getting its message across. An NOP survey carried out for Tesco found that 25 per cent of adults already describe themselves as "demi-vegetarian". It must have something to do with the Society's cheeky advertising campaigns, but their slickest slogan can't have had as much impact as that catchy little phrase, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy.

It's not surprising that we're all suddenly taking an inordinate interest in what we eat, and want to find out as much about it as we can. Where better place to start than the Internet?

Several sites will explain that food can alter the balance of chemicals in the brain which in turn affect mood. Too much red meat and you're like a cat on a hot tin roof as your brain marinades in excess norepinephrine; a healthy noodle casserole, on the other hand, sends relaxing tryptophan slurping around your synapses.

If you don't know how to casserole a noodle, click on to the British Vegetarian Society. It's worth visiting if only to see how effective at spreading the word a well-organised site can be. Much of the material is aimed specifically at schoolchildren and teachers, with plenty of hints on how to introduce vegetarianism into food technology, science, English and other aspects of the curriculum.

For an alternative point of view, pupils might enjoy Carnivores Unite, which boasts "a selection of politically unsound recipes, using local pets as ingredients". At Tasty Insect Recipes, they will find out how to prepare Rootworm Beetle Dip, and how crickets add a crunch to Chocolate Chirpy Chip Cookies.

It's true that one site does carry an article explaining that "the risk from eating beef is less than driving a car or having sex", but worried Netties in search of reassurance will naturally turn to the site sponsored by British Meat. It claims to have "the latest information about safeguarding our beef", but when you click on to the relevant page, all you find is a few non-descript photographs of meat dishes, no mention of BSE.

It's a shame, because the BSE crisis has illustrated perfectly the advantages the Internet has over the traditional media, which has to be selective, reducing everything to sound bites or a few column inches. The Internet provides a platform where experts can present the complex arguments in full.

Unfortunately, much of what they say makes for very disturbing reading: eating beef sounds about as safe as having sex while driving a car. Those of a nervous disposition who explore these sites are advised to have an ample supply of noodle casserole to hand.

http:www.veg.orgvegOrgsVegSocUKinfo.html uk

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