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!