Waste Free

Dilemma: Going Vegan for Environmental Reasons

Earlier in the guest post series, the lovely Damaris shared her thoughts on veganism. Since veganism is such a huge and controversial topic, I had no problem bringing a second perspective to you too. Thank you so much for the awesome guys at the Eco Misfits for writing this post about their thoughts about being vegan.

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One of the biggest decisions a person can make when trying to live sustainably revolves around diet. Food waste in the developed world is astronomical – around a third of all food produced never gets eaten. The damage done to habitats by our need for more meat is devastating. The same goes for our appetite for milk and eggs, and don’t get me started on the fishing industry.

In short, our ravenous consumption of animal-based foods is not sustainable. There are more cattle in the world than people, all making up livestock around the world. These animals need to eat, so on top of the space needed to grow our vegetables, grains, fruits, etc. there must be space to grow food for livestock. I read recently that as many as half of 16-24 year-olds in the UK have moved onto a meat-free diet for environmental reasons. And older generations are starting to shift as well.

A simple solution

We transitioned to a vegan diet about a year ago. We’re the Eco Misfits and our sustainability journey started around the time our daughter was born: 2018. We share our journey on Instagram , and our change in diet has had the biggest impact on our so-called ‘carbon footprint’.

And we are not the only ones. There are many like us in a rich community of eco-conscious, climate-concerned people. Another guest post on this brilliant blog discusses the power of veganism to make humanity more sustainable. We love our new vegan diet, but we do find ourselves in something of a dilemma from time to time.

Clash of values

One of the biggest ills of the world’s food industries is the aforementioned waste. Whether it’s ‘wonky vegetables’ or food passing its ‘Best Before’ date, more than a billion tons of food is wasted every year. This means the abattoir slaughters millions of animals for nothing. Or that millions of fish are asphyxiated only to end up in a bin. Or, perhaps, that many acres of fields growing potatoes are occupying that land to produce, at best, compost or, at worst, landfill. Not to mention the water and energy that is consumed to grow those vegetables.

In short, food waste on such an enormous scale shows how dysfunctional our food system is.

So, as vegans who changed their diet to help protect the environment, how can we stand by and watch supermarket food be thrown out because their ‘Use By’ date passed? In our local supermarket, we regularly walk by the eggs to see shelves of them with yellow ‘Reduced’ stickers. We made the decision to start buying them, because we felt that leaving them to be discarded was more at odds with our values than eating them.

Undoubtedly, the same thing happens with meat, milk, cream, cheese, honey and other food products containing things that vegans avoid. This dilemma only really applies to people who turned vegan for environmental reasons, but I have not seen it brought up by anyone else.

So is being vegan wrong?

I hear arguments against veganism that revolve around things like ‘What would happen to all the chickens if no-one ate their eggs or meat?’ Without a doubt, their global numbers would decline. But there were never supposed to be so many chickens, sheep, cows and pigs in nature. Nor humans, for that matter. I would not suggest that we take a drastic step to reduce the human population, but a system with fewer animals supplementing our population would be far more sustainable.

We are strong advocates for people becoming vegetarians or vegans. If enough people did it, the strain on wild animal populations, habitats and the environment in general would be greatly reduced. But, with the world in its current state, we believe that allowing food to go to waste is almost as bad. This is why we make the choice to occasionally be flexible with part of our diet.

Perhaps we are not alone in doing this. Or maybe our logic is flawed. We would love to hear what other people think of this. Is it a dilemma, or should we be sticking to entirely avoiding non-vegan food? Please comment on this post or contact us on Instagram, and don’t forget to head over to our blog as well. Thanks for reading.

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