June 10, 2011 / 5:02 AM / 7 years ago

Save a cow, eat this dress instead

BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - The dress worn by Chinese actress Gao Yuanyuan looked good enough to eat.

It was made of lettuce leaves, part of an effort by animal rights group PETA to encourage consumers to go vegetarian as meat consumption in China keeps on rising.

Draped in the dark green, form-hugging leaves, Gao also sported a necklace made of gleaming red chili peppers.

“After going vegetarian, I feel so much lighter,” Gao told a media event.

“When I first started the vegetarian diet, I was not used to it and so I ate starchy foods in big amounts, and gained a little bit of weight. Still, I felt much more energetic.”

Chinese, historically, had a vegetable-heavy diet, but as incomes and living standards have rising among the nation’s growing middle-class, people are eating more meat.

A vendor carries pork at a pork wholesale market in Changzhi, Shanxi province, in this file photo taken January 21, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

On average, each person consumes 55 kilograms a year.

Jason Baker, from PETA, said that China’s consumption of meat has quadrupled over the last four decades, resulting in a number of health problems.

Slideshow (2 Images)

“Per capital consumption is still lower compared to the Western world, but it’s changing -- it’s getting worse,” he said, noting that factory farming of meat has begun in China as well.

“Consumption is going up, and related to that so are diseases related to meat consumption - cancer, heart disease.”

Still, meat eaters remain skeptical.

“I think going vegetarian doesn’t always equal health,” said a Beijing resident who gave only her surname, Wang.

“You still need to have both meat and vegetables to have a balanced diet. If you only eat vegetables, there’s bound to be some lack in your dietary requirements.”

Reporting by Roya Stevens and Jimmy Guan; editing by Elaine Lies

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