From 2004 to 2019 interest in veganism increased ten-fold and the number of people taking on a vegan based diet quadrupled. Almost more notably, in 2022, research indicated nearly half of the UK population are considering reducing their intake of animal products. Therefore, vegan or not, we are seeing promising and substantial change. The simplicity of the vegan diet coupled with the indisputable facts is making this lifestyle choice more and more desirable. It strikes a balance between achievable and aspirational. The argument in favour of veganism is clear and simple, for those who need a reminder, here are some hard-hitting truths:
The animal farming industry accounts for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and 65% of nitrous oxide emissions which has 296 times the global warming potential than carbon dioxide.
Someone who eats meat, is responsible for the consumption of on average 15,000 litres of water a day. Put simply, each steak you eat takes 7,500 litres of water to produce.
Comparatively, someone following a vegan lifestyle produces half the carbon dioxide than a meat-eater and uses 1/11th of the oil, 1/13th of the water and 1/18th of the land.
But what can be lost in the midst, is that veganism does not necessarily equate to sustainability. Often a mindset of ‘products’ over ‘production’ is adopted, which does not consider the full picture. From almond milk killing bees due to pollination pressures, to the exploitation of workers due to global coconut milk demand, and vast areas of the Amazon rainforest being burnt down for soy farms, an understanding of the context and the production chain is vital in truly being ethically conscious. However, there are many ways to overcome this with some simple research and opting for organic and fair trade certified versions. Alternatively, why not give oat, flax or hemp milk a go? Having said that, a plant based diet does not pose nearly the same impacts on the environment as a meat based diet does.
Furthermore, veganism’s absolutist ideology can be damaging to marginalised communities, placing cultures that rely on animal consumption to some degree on a different ethical plane. For example some indigenous populations in Canada have been reprimanded for their traditional seal hunting practices. As such, the rise in veganism in the West should not come in hand with ethical superiority and a nuanced form of colonialistic oppression.
Whilst there is no doubt that removing animal products from your diet will be the single most significant action you could personally take against climate change, a conscious understanding of the wider context is key; of cultures, workers rights and privilege.