Is veganism causing harm to the planet?

There is a trend of veganism on the rise. The days of there being no choice of a vegetarian option and vegan substitutes being unavailable are rapidly diminishing. The taunts of surviving on rabbit food are slowly being replaced with some awe at your endurance for being on the sixth month of your dietary change.

More people than ever are turning to veganism as restaurants and eateries expand the range of choice, with the Vegan society reporting there are 600,000 vegans in the UK now. This is an exponential increase from 2006 when there were only 150,000 vegans. Many cite their reasons for their new diet as being better for their health, are turned off by the way animals are cruelly treated before being butchered for a burger and for environmental reasons.

Paradoxically, now vegans may now be contributing to harming the environment in more nuanced ways. That creamy avocado toast now represents the large amount of water needed and land that now has to be cleared to use for growing avocado’s. Gang warfare in Mexico has been linked to the avocado trend as various cartels demand money from farmers for ‘protection’. If not paid off, they sometimes burn down the farms.

Almond milk is putting huge pressures on bees to pollinate almond trees, causing them to die and 130 pints of water are needed to produce just one glass of almond milk. This is the most amount of water needed for any plant-based milk, which makes your almond latte taste more bitter-sweet than ethical and eco-friendly.

Soy has been heavily linked to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, as soy production has increased exponentially. It is used to feed both humans and livestock, so it is more nuanced here, as reducing meat and dairy production can help reduce soy production, but conversely, because tofu is made from soy, its use is still causing deforestation. Soya is used in plant based milk and as a protein source, when other foods can be used.

As many of these items are exported internationally, they’re racking up astronomic CO2 emissions. Whilst these foods may mean fewer animals lives are put in danger, the impact on peoples working conditions, the pressures they and their land faces, and detrimental effects to the environment, we must look at veganism being holistically ethical.

We can look at foods grown locally to use to reduce CO2 emissions, not bring avocado’s the insta-fame they often have when coupled with toast, and vary what we eat for brunch. Oat milk requires far less water than almond milk, so go for that! Seek out vegan foods that may not be trending, but have also been a staple in the vegan or vegetarian diet, like lentils, potatoes, or broccoli. They may not sound exciting in their ‘deconstructed’ parts, but there are plenty of hearty, delicious dishes that can be made from the simplest of foods.

A spicy aloo gobi curry mainly requires potatoes and you may forget that chips are even vegan, because it is such a go-to when you feel like a treat on a Friday afternoon. Veganism does not need to indulge our Instagram followers as we seek out the trendiest, priciest food items. It is a lifestyle that aims to diminish our negative human impact on the planet and to our fellow humans, ensuring their working rights are fair, not fearful, ensuring we plant trees, not feel driven to illegally deforest parts of the earth because that’s our best chance for trade and thus survival, and that our mango hasn’t done more air miles than we have in the last year.

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