Updated: Jun 14, 2019
I’m an environmentalist and I’m not a vegan. It’s entirely possible with a very considerate yet nourishing and enjoyable diet. This is not an excuse for meat lovers to keep eating meat for 3 meals a day (sorry) or is it an opportunity for me to be absolutely “destroyed” by Militant Vegans. Eating for the planet sits me directly in the middle of the war of vegans vs meat eaters. I’m sat in no mans land as shots are fired. And having this middle ground with no extreme view, neither meat lover or vegan is a strange view, in a polarised scene.
Environmentalism and veganism are not mutually exclusive. You can be one without being the other. No matter what people tell me. No matter what your own opinion is.
It’s not selfish. Although I want to nourish my own body, obviously, thats not selfish thats surviving, I dedicate a lot of time, money and awareness to eating an environmental diet.
And this is the ability to translate a complicated science into a life.
It’s fundamentalism and absolutism, and bullying to fight for a very very narrow agenda that you believe in to fight for something that another person is uncomfortable with. It's naive, ignorant and offensive to not trust my own judgement on my own diet and how that interacts with the planet.
I work sometimes 16 hour days to promote healthy positive environmental lifestyles and to do the same myself. I studied ecology and conservation. I am constantly reading research, writing, consulting on all things eco. I live for the environment. And that includes supplementing my diet with meat.
(By the way, I mainly eat chicken. I was questioned why I eat chicken but want to save other animals. Yes I realise chicken is ethically the same as another creature that we have emotional ties to. But I also realise chickens are not endangered and they produce a lot less carbon than other meat). Picking plastic up from the oceans, helps prevent the death of extremely rare animals, that we are trying to prevent from extinction- is not the same as eating chicken.
I have a huge respect for some vegans. Plant based diets are healthy*, in most cases have environmental benefits (although the science suggests that non local vegans have higher footprint than some omnivorous diets) and most of all, vegan food is yummy. When I can, my favourite food is plant based smoothies, Buddha bowls and heaps of vegetables and beans. If I’m at a family gathering and meats served up. I eat. If I’m on an island with limited resources... you get the picture. Flexitarinism is a gentle and wonderful without any strict rules. Without any judgement on myself.
But still, I have received so much hate online. Death threats to me, even to my dogs as well as being told I have a limp dick and to kill myself. All because I don’t stand for bullying. I don’t stand for the extremeism, the irrational and blind following of an idea that followers believes makes you elevated, a better person able to say anything, do anything to anybody else, because they’re an almighty vegan. I don't beleive in this form of campaigning, but I don't believe in this scientifically either. And I don't be bullied into doing what I don't believe in because of loud voices.
This is not ok in any walk of life. I am particularly keen to never ever push this in the environment world. No body is ever perfect and it’s my opinion when you belittle somebody, it does not make them want to try. And the vegan scene, is often bordering on bullying.
The Resources Insistute actually set up a conference to deal with offsetting these online bullies, and research coming out since has suggesting lots of people have been on the receiving end of an irrational bully- preaching their religion: veganism.
The science on the whole says a MORE plant based diet is good for an individual and the planet. It does not ever reach conclusions that we should be vegan. In fact a study showed, a vegan diet, has a lower carrying capacity for humans. This suggests, if we all switched to vegan, even more of the worlds population would be without food. Another study published in Nature suggested that some vegan diets had a worse environmental impact than of some omnivores. From these findings, you'll see that I do not draw one solid conclusion. I assess, I critically review a RANGE of science. And the RANGE of science does not whole heartedly point to veganism.
Plant based is also tough for some areas, with the inability to grow vegetables on poor soils. Animals, who can graze the areas of grass that we can’t eat, translate that rough scrubby terrain into food. Without animals, they would have to clear much more forest- and that’s even if they have enough land to produce a huge amount of food. Sometimes, that is not even possible. Importing specialised vegan foods would both be distrastorous environmentally but also economically. And this isn't even taking into account the social implications and cultural place of animal consumption.
Plus, DIETARY advice and ENVIRONMENTAL advice must be taken region by region.
And sure Western countries are in a great position to do more.
There is a huge amount of research that beef is extremely resource intensive and environmentally degrading. I choose not to eat beef. But a wide sweeping emotionally founded claim about veganism, and that a person is not an environmentalist because they’re not vegan, is wrong. Eating a diet very high in fruit- can lead to a higher environmental footprint than an omnivore. An individuals environmental footprint is HUGELY reliant on what they eat! And thats because food impact relates to lots of things.
So by telling every person that they have to be vegan-
Is to be irrational.
Is to be fundamentalist.
The environment and our diet are closely linked. But veganism and being an environmentalist are not mutually exclusive. Of course, being a vegan does not automatically make you an environmentalist, the same way not being vegan does not automatically make you and environmentalist.
Thinking about your impact on the environment holistically is important. Thinking about how to mitigate your impact in every way you can, does.
Every single thing we do has an impact. Reducing that impact across lots of ways is enlightening and exciting. I eat, what I have researched heavily, as an environmental diet. About 5% of my diet comes from animal sources. Chicken or dairy mainly. The rest is locally produced package free legumes and vegetables and fruit to a less extent. I change my diet depending on where I am, to prevent food waste and seasons. I absolutely love Hugh Fearnley-Whittingshall's stance on food, MORE VEG. Not, ONLY veg.
Living closely to the source of our food, I'm learning more and more than no food production can be 100% cruelty free. Our "vegan" elderflower cordial used sugar that was from a monoculture that removed habitat and probably involved a lot of intensive growth, plus even the organically grown handpicked elderflower heads contain bugs that were so tiny we couldn't remove. Our Rainbow Chard, full of bugs, had to be destroyed. Even when working 100% as close to nature as possible to prevent harm, we cannot avoid it. And this is growing with our own hands, checking our crop everyday multiple times, gently clapping away birds from feasting on our food. Vegan food within an industrialised food system, bought in the supermarket, shipped across the country or planet will no doubt cause more animal harm than my garden. Especially when we get chickens- of whom we plan to eat their eggs.
Despite the fact I eat with the environment as my top priority, I was in the firing line recently. I follow lots of vegan accounts on Instagram, I love seeing vegan recipes and food ideas.
A young kid asked in the comments of a fundamentalist vegan site, what would happen to the animals, if we all stopped eating meat. He said he loves animals and is concerned what would happen to them.
In this situation, I’d be so grateful if I got this question that a young kid cares enough to ask, and I’d try give him a positive answer. The page said that he was a moron and that the animals would be let to roam free and all the money saved from meat buying would be given to the poor.
I was pretty upset that he was called a moron and not given a proper answer.
So I replied. And that’s where it went downhill. I replied that people eating less meat would happen over time- so slowly less animals in agriculture. The money saved on a personal level would probably be used to buy more specialised vegan products, supplements etc. and I asked the page not to call him a moron for asking a great question.
26 comments later, 3 users, who looked all the same with similar bios and no pictures or followers, I was almost in tears. Almost, because they ignored my RATIONAL arguments, agreeing with more plant based and because I was not 100% vegan absolutely went to town trying to destroy me personally. In debates, whoever goes personal, looses. I love debates with somebody who had bloody good ideas, and if they have a solid rational non personal debate I often come out with a changed opinion. When I’m told murder is murder, that I am a moron, with no common sense and then they go ahead and go through my personal Instagram (I was on Making Roots at this point) and threaten to kill and eat my dog (“see how I like that”) it goes very dangerous territory. I questioned their ethics, asking if they’re comfortable in the fact that people who are bullied on social media can go on to commit suicide. They said they did not care.
A few hours later, the 16 year old boy that asked the question messaged me and said thank you. He was grateful somebody gave him a scientific rational answer to his question. He said to me to ignore the “asshats” who were speaking nonsense and just launching personal attacks. And that if I could take anything positive away, was that he took my comment on board as the advice he’d research more. It was all worth it! Woop!
This level of veganism terrifies me. It is a cult, fundamentalism and extremeism. There is scientific and rational arguments that 100% vegan diets not coupled with "back to the land" approaches, is not the most ethical diet. Especially diets high in nuts and processed foods.
I won’t be bullied and threatened into being a vegan, just because a person who cannot thinking holistically, and again is totally naive and ignorant to my own lifestyle, thinks I should be. Those situations SUCK, but, I am confident in my stance. I’ve done so much reading on this topic, I specialised in sustainable food systems during my degree. I am holistic in my approach to life and sustainability, reducing my impacts in as many ways as possible. I act on science and rationality not emotion.
And so, yes I am an environmentalist and conservationist and I’m not a vegan. No screaming, no abusing me, bullying me, no matter YOUR OWN strong opinion about it, based on emotion, will change that. And no person alone can rationally suggest another dietary system for billions of other humans, some of which do not have food to survive, let alone to choose.
YOU have to research your area, YOU have to decide whats in season, whats local, whats available. Look up Life Cycle Analyses- see how many things are important when discussing diet. Yes a more plant based diet is beneficial, but I do not stand for totalitarianism when the science does not translate to that. I am completely open to moving with the science, and I will evolve my own lifestyle with the science. I also want to adjust my lifestyle to a huge range of other issues too, palm oil, packaging, sugar, transport distance and method, productions for workers, social and cultural ramifications of growing etc.
So, I'm no longer listening to those who tell you what me what I'm not. They’re following their own emotional agenda. Their opinion is not necessarily right for you. I would never tell somebody what they’re not, what they can’t do or what they’re doing wrong in my own narrow opinion. We fight for openmindedness, rationality, positivity and the environment. I’m no longer getting angry or upset when I’m told this.
Nobody has the right to tell you what you can and can’t be.
I will no longer engage in heated debate that is not backed by science that is narrow minded. Time is precious and I can no longer gift mine to a cause I do not believe in.
If you want to read more I THOROUGHLY recommend Rob Greenfield's written article on why he's not a vegan either.