Veganism – Is It As Sustainable As We Think?

First of all I’d like to clarify I’m not an expert on this topic, however I have been doing a lot of research on this lately and so just want to put my views across – this is my personal opinion and feel free to comment on this if you feel differently! I also don’t want this to make anyone feel bad, it’s just to add a new angle on current issues!



The Increasing Trend of Veganism

In recent years, veganism has taken off and is pretty much on an exponential increase in the UK. In my opinion overall this is an amazing thing to be happening – why? Because it raises awareness of the environmental, ethical & health issues arising from eating factory farmed meat and dairy products in people who otherwise wouldn’t be interested. More and more people are transitioning to plant-based milks, cheese and meat instead of the real thing because they now realise the damage these huge industrial farms are causing. However, after being vegan for quite a while myself (I’m not anymore) I started to notice things that personally I wasn’t happy with.

Processed Vegan Products

I noticed that being so dedicated to veganism was actually making me eat more processed food than I would have prior to going vegan. A lot of the meat substitutes in supermarkets have a lot of added stabilisers & flavourings, and although it is possible to just go for dried or tinned legumes & tofu – can we thrive off of these whilst getting everything we need in? Obviously this is on a case by case basis, whilst veganism might work for one person, it might not work for another. I think it would just be unrealistic to say that everybody should be vegan though. For example, women who suffer from anaemia around the time of their period?

Haem & Non-Haem Iron

The iron in plants (non-haem) is said to not be as easily absorbed as the iron in meat products (haem). So women who are suffering from this health problem might actually benefit from eating red meat – maybe grass fed beef – around this time. Now I’m not saying that we should all be eating red meat, but I think it’s important to put your health first & foremost and then your beliefs second. How are we going to make a difference if we can’t function physically & mentally as human beings?


Another thing I realised is that a lot of the amazing documentaries out there sort of apply mostly to the USA and Australia. I’m from Scotland, and actually if you’re buying organic meat and produce from here, chances are the animals have been treated as well as they possibly could before they are sent for slaughter (in a lot of cases). There is absolutely no excuse for animal abuse and I feel sick at the thought of any animals being treated badly. At the same time – how is this any different to the human beings who work on the soy farms in Asia working long days in the heat, to go home with almost zero cash in their pockets? However I am completely aware of the issues the fishing industry is having on the environment, and the huge amounts of by-catch that happens as a result of the fishing industry. But it’s impossible to cover everything in this one post so I’ll talk about that another time…

Can we win?

My point here is we have to pick our battles, as consumers we have a lot of power. By only demanding ethical (as possible) products then the big businesses need to supply us with that. Already we are seeing big changes with a lot of powerful companies promising to stop animal testing and bring out vegan ranges/products. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and I think we should all just go on our own journeys. One person might want to reduce their plastic waste and not be vegan whilst the other might start growing their own vegetables & herbs in the garden and eat organic meat. This is all okay! Don’t follow something because you feel like you have to, instead do your own research and find out what works best for your lifestyle. I can guarantee it’s making a positive difference and you’re winning with these small changes.

Is it sustainable to be vegan?

It completely depends on what your take on sustainability is… as I said before, if you don’t feel it’s sustainable for you and you’re not functioning properly on a vegan diet then don’t feel you have to do it. If it isn’t sustainable for you, then that’s the first thing you need to take into consideration. In terms of environmental sustainability, it probably is one of the better options but the Mediterranean diet has also been proven to be quite healthy & sustainable. To sum up – going vegan isn’t the ONLY option to becoming more sustainable, if you can’t do it then find other ways that do work for you & your family! Put you first!

11 thoughts on “Veganism – Is It As Sustainable As We Think?

  1. ajeanneinthekitchen July 1, 2019 / 7:35 pm

    To each his or her own, however, I personally do not think Veganism is healthy or sustainable. My “sister” and all 7 of her kids are vegan, ALL my her choice. Yes, they are vegan, and have been their whole lives, but they are VERY limited in what they eat too, not because there are not enough choices available to them, but because they ARE extremely picky eaters. So, veganism on its own is not healthy, but when you couple that with being very picky, they are not getting either their proper nutrition or enough calories to keep them going. MOST vegans I have ever met, and I have met quite a few are anemic, have very low iron, are vitamin B (all B vitamins) deficient, eat way to much soy based products, which are not good, just to name a few things wrong with being vegan. It is also very expensive, and therefore a luxury to the privileged few, and unless you make everything from scratch all the time, EVERYTHING is processed. eating a wide variety of foods, from every food group, and everything in moderation will ALWAYS be your best bet. I am a certified, trained chef and I also studied nutrition in college when i was a biology major, and yet again, for sports nutrition, since I am also in the health and fitness industry.

    • ailsascotland July 1, 2019 / 7:43 pm

      Thank you for your comment! It would be very hard being vegan as a picky eater. I am the least picky eater on the planet and ended up struggling with veganism in the end – especially since I grew up loving fish. It’s a lovely concept and I totally admire people who can do it properly but yeah I agree with you that there are lots of people who are nutrient deficient on a vegan diet (I was myself). Also since you have so much experience in that field it’s very cool to hear your feedback on this cause I know quite a few people in the PT/health/nutrition industry who have the same opinions as you!! But yes I believe each to their own as well! X

    • Amanda Borneke July 10, 2019 / 10:12 am

      Not being vegan beacuse you are a picky eater is just an excuse not to take responsibilty on your climate emissions. AND these people have not tasted the right food XD there is more vegan dishes than meat dishes!

      • ailsascotland July 10, 2019 / 10:39 pm

        I understand where you’re coming from but I have to say I disagree, veganism isn’t the one way to reduce your emissions & I think it’s time people woke up and saw that…

  2. Yue July 2, 2019 / 2:15 pm

    Great post! I really agree with what you said about finding what’s sustainable for “you”. I’m not vegan but eat plant-based most meals for health and environmental reasons, but I also just love the taste and credit this so much to the way I was raised (traditional Chinese food is quite veg-centric!) My husband was raised on meat and potatoes so going more veg has been decidedly harder for him. I think this movement could gain a lot more momentum if we could all advocate for a more incremental approach and not ask people to forgo all meat forever πŸ™‚

  3. Izzy July 8, 2019 / 3:46 pm

    Its interesting you bring up the soy farmers in South East Asia because most soy actually goes into animal feed so feeds directly into animal produce! People often use the soy is bad for the environment argument against veganism when it goes into animals! I’m allergic to the stuff so that’s one product I don’t worry about too much πŸ˜‚

    I think veganism is generally.more sustainable but not always. The most sustainable diet is to eat locally and seasonally which for most people in the UK means very little meat in their diet. But people also have to look after their health 100% which I why I think trying plant based slowly and safely is the best option for a lot of people .

    I’ve been vegan for years but am currently trying to make sure I’m buying produce from locally community gardens and social supermarkets so I’m making sustainable choices.

    The Quirky Queer

  4. liawalsh July 8, 2019 / 9:30 pm

    I was vegan for 6 years and got really sick, so I appreciate the validation in your article! My health was and is more important to me.

    While I do eat animal products now, I also make a lot of choices that encourage social sustainability, which would ultimately help with what Jeanne mentioned: veganism being so financially inaccessible. Many people can’t even begin to afford to be vegan (whether due to time, energy or money), and it’s important to “stay in our own lanes” as they say, and not try to tell everyone else that they need to be this or that (including vegan)!

    I also feel that our sustainability “bottom line” should consider social and economic sustainability and not just environmental (which I feel is an umbrella under which animal welfare belongs). Too often we see people more concerned about animals than about their fellow human, and I think that disconnect is really sad. Sure, you might be wearing vegan shoes, but were they made in a sweatshop? Because it matters!

    In any case, thank you so much for this post!

    • ailsascotland July 9, 2019 / 7:41 am

      Wow 6 years that’s a long time! That’s actually so true. It can be really expensive in some places – although you can do it cheap sometimes it means you’re not getting access to all of the nutrients you need. That’s really interesting! Yeah I agree with that, I feel as if maybe some vegans put animals before everything else which is up to the individual but personally don’t like that idea.
      Thanks for the comment! Interesting to hear about what other people feel and also to know that not everyone thinks veganism is the only route to sustainability! X

  5. Valinda July 9, 2019 / 7:13 am

    Great post! I strongly believe in eating what my body asks for. I often eat plant based but sometimes by body just craves for meat. I think that it contains something my body needs at the moment. Luckily it does not happen often.

    • ailsascotland July 9, 2019 / 7:42 am

      Hi Valinda! Thank you, that’s great you eat plant based a lot. I know exactly what you mean – if your body is telling you you need something then it’s best to listen! I think the all or nothing mindset isn’t practical & we should be able to decide to eat meat on the odd occasion without feeling bad πŸ™‚

  6. Barbara Greene Alfeo July 9, 2019 / 5:19 pm

    I feel like this is a perfect example of doing what works for you, though I also think the vegan processed foods are problematic because they so often have palm oil in them. That’s a big deal, and has a really significant effect on the rainforests and animals in them.

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