VEGANISM – A good news story!
Veganism certainly seems to be a good news story; a movement that is creating a positive change in our society. Although, if I relied on mainstream media, I could be forgiven for thinking that all is gloom and doom in our world; but I constantly hear about what people are doing to make our world a better place. A recent revelation has been the massive growth in Veganism. The Vegan Society report that the number of vegans in the UK quadrupled between 2014 and 2018 making an estimated 600,000. Quite impressive!
(But, before I go on I need to make a confession: I do enjoy the occasional lamb chop and a bacon sarnie is a favourite lunch time nibble!)
So, what has brought on this increase in veganism?
From the BBC’s ‘The Why Factor’ I learnt that there are three key motives for going vegan –
- Environmental concerns – It’s been said the best thing we can do to help climate change is to stop eating meat. Huge swathes of land – often carbon absorbing forests or good quality arable land – are taken over for growing food of which three quarters is used for pasture for animals or to grow grain to feed animals. Raising livestock for meat, eggs and milk has been found to generate 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions and is the second highest source of emissions
- Concern for animal welfare – Our animal rearing methods leave a lot to be desired: 90% of chicken production in the UK is in intensive windowless sheds; herds of up to 3,000 cattle at a time are held in grassless pens for extended periods rather than being grazed or barn-reared; animals which should have a life span of 20 years are killed as soon as they have grown to full size; de-beaking and other procedures often cause extreme pain to animals.
- Personal health – Eating too much meat and dairy products has been shown to greatly increase our risk of heart disease, diabetes, several major cancers (including breast, liver and prostate) and obesity.
The ‘shadow’ of veganism
As always, there’s more to this than meets the eye. I’m reminded that philosopher and writer John Gray has pointed out that progress in terms of the growth of knowledge, the growth of technology, the advance of science has a cost, a shadow. He sees the shadow which accompanies the light. In deciding to live without using animals for food or clothes etc we need to recognise the ‘shadow’:
- Our veggie food has a pretty heavy impact on the climate if it has been transported across the globe and if much energy and water have been used in its production. Then there’s the possibility that toxic pesticides have been used and that truck-loads of bees have been transported over vast distances to pollinate the plants in an unnatural way. I was pretty amazed to learn that acres of Rain Forest in Mexico have been cleared to grow avocados and that rice – which occupies 12% of the world’s total arable land – results in the release of methane, a greenhouse gas.
- Our choice of plant food from overseas can also have a pretty devastating impact on local populations because those at the source can be left unable to afford food which has been produced on their own doorstep. For example, the prices of quinoa, the so-called miracle grain which is a staple part of the people of the Andes, has reportedly become too expensive for local people to buy. For the same reason Kenya has banned the export of avocadoes.
- Turning to using non-animal fabrics, it’s been pointed out that whereas wool fibres decompose naturally, acrylic and polyester leach microfibers into our water supplies and are polluting the seas big time.
Wow – I’m on a steep learning curve here! But, help is at hand: Many who study and think about these things see that if your main concern is to protect the environment then the best decision is whenever possible to source food locally and seasonally. A lamb chop from up the road could well have less impact on the environment than an avocado shipped half way across the world. If you can, why not use your local Farm Shops or Farmers’ Markets such as the excellent Leigh Farmers’ Market where you will also find a good range of vegan products.
My thinking about veganism is timely because we are approaching January when we tend to make resolutions, often about what we eat. Veganuary was launched in 2014 as a way of encouraging us to try out a vegan diet, to test the waters and see if we can live without animal products. Last year a pretty impressive 168,000 people registered online. Having opened my eyes to the cruel ways in which animals are treated before ending up on our plates and to the health benefits of less meat, I might be tempted …
There is the suggestion that vegans sometimes take a holier than though attitude, being critical of we meat-eaters but, as with all lifestyle decisions we make, I’m thinking that the best we can do is to decide for ourselves without casting blame on others.
As far as I’m concerned, the fact that people are beginning to think about these things has got to be good news!