The other day I contemplated going vegan. I had heard from other people that it was not only healthy for your body but way better for the environment, and how can you argue with that…except that it’s false. I did a little digging and realized that the common things people claimed about veganism were actually very ill-informed “facts”. The first notion about going vegan is that it is good for you. Many of the scientific studies that are out there show that incorporating healthy amounts of fruits and vegetables is healthy for you, this doesn’t mean you need to cut out animal products entirely or that some meat/dairy/eggs are completely bad for you (1). Rather this advocates for eating a balanced diet. New studies have found that diets with small amounts of meat can feed more people and are in turn more environmentally friendly than veganism (2). Which brings us to the next point, veganism isn’t good for the environment.
The problem with just using the land to farm plants is that it isn’t good for our planet, as counterintuitive as that may sound. Vegan diets are challenging in that you have to find ways to get protein because most plants don’t provide enough. This makes people turn towards beans and grains, the most common being soybeans and corn. However, especially when it comes to soybeans, the way they are farmed isn’t sustainable (2). In order to keep people from starving as the world’s population increases, scientists have begun to look at ways to maximize Earth’s land and their research shows that diets that consist of meat and plants is better than just an all out vegan diet (2). Now the way meat is currently consumed especially in our country isn’t the answer, but neither is the vegan life style, for more information (3). The other important environmental factor that tends to get left out of vegan conversations is where all this plant based food is coming from. The mangos and avocados, the lentils and beans, all the various food comes from thousands of miles away to get to your grocery store (4). That involves the gas to take the food from the farms to the packaging plant, the packaging and labeling of all the food is usually with plastics that are not good for the environment, to the gas to get the food to large shipping containers, to the oil used in boats or planes to get the food to the main land of your country, to the gas to drive it from the port to your store, all requires so many pollutants. The other problem is food shortages. Avocados in particular have been on the rise in popularity, and in turn the demand can’t be met (4). In many ways it is more sustainable and environmentally friendly to buy some meat from the farm down the road than to have your avocado shipped in from who knows where.
But hold on you say, going vegan helps the animals and marine life. That is true, vegan lifestyles help not perpetuate inhumane farming. However, I would argue all of the “pros” to veganism could be met with sustainable farming and eating practices. We should be sourcing our food sustainably, locally, and less wastefully. I feel this in turn would lead to far more humane treatment of all life; animal, marine, and plant life. The answer isn’t that all meat or no meat is bad, the answer is we’ve lost sight of how to be responsible consumers. Shipping anything from across the globe isn’t sustainable. We should be capitalizing on small farms that rotate crops to maximize soil health. We should be promoting local farmers who raise animals humanely because dairy products, eggs, and small amounts of meat might just be the best path for society (2). So as you go and get your next meal, think about what you’re eating and where it came from. Overconsumption of certain food groups and unsustainable and inhumane farming practice aren’t going away unless we start to address them, so lets finally do that.