I was a vegetarian for about ten years and dabbled in veganism for a few years, so I definitely get the appeal. I love animals and the environment and I don’t want to see animals mistreated. A friend recently sent me a vegan propaganda video and honestly, I didn’t even watch it because I don’t need to be bombarded with disturbing images that I can’t get out of my head. I know animals are mistreated and it is horrific and cruel- that’s why I am making conscious choices about where my food comes from. While I appreciate if these videos inspire people to take a stand against animal cruelty, I just don’t think going vegan is the answer.
Grass-fed beef from the local farmers’ market is certainly not the same as getting any old meat from the supermarket. If animals are raised as nature intended (e.g. pigs are allowed to root, chickens are allowed to peck around outside and eat bugs etc) and killed humanely, then I think it really changes the conversation. Beyond the fact that veganism isn’t healthy (note: historically there are no known vegan cultures anywhere in the world) and humans need animal protein to thrive, it just isn’t realistic to expect we can convince the entire planet to go vegan. I believe we should focus our efforts on improving animal welfare and educating people on how to source animal products from pastured animals given a humane death. Diana Rodgers brings up a really interesting point when she challenges the vegan idea that we should just let animals live out their full lives and not serve as food. She says, “…the idea that a natural death is painless death or a better death than a humane slaughter that we can do with all the technology that we have today is crazy.” Nature can be incredibly cruel so let’s not romanticize it and be realistic.
Going vegan is not the answer. Become conscious of where your animal products are coming from.
Another interesting thing to consider is that vegan food crops aren’t free from death either. Animals die, like bunnies and mice, killed when those crops are being cultivated by huge machinery, not to mention the life forms affected by the pesticides often used and the environmental toxins caused by transporting that food. It’s pretty hard to eat local when you are eating a lot of the foods that vegan eat, like coconut, goji berries and raw chocolate.
By rallying against factory farming and it’s unethical practices (and dangerous conditions that foster food born illness) and demanding meat raised using sustainable practices, then we are helping animals, the planet and ourselves. Going vegan isn’t the answer. As Diana Rodgers from Sustainable Dish says, “When vegans say, ‘Well, I won’t eat meat because i don’t believe in factory farming’, it’s like saying ‘I won’t eat vegetables because i don’t believe in the mono crop GMOs.'”
No one would argue that factory farming is good for the environment but other farming practices are. While cows do produce a lot of methane, they also do something called “carbon sequestration” which, when combined with soil microbes, shows that pastured cows are actually having a positive effect on greenhouse gases.
Also, a lot of pasture land is unsuitable for growing vegetables and using this land for pastureland actually improves the quality of the land and keeps it from becoming unusable in the future. Use it or lose it! When people make claims about the extreme amounts of water it takes to grow a pound of beef, they are including rainwater in the equation, water that grows the grass and fills the puddles they drink from. This is water that would otherwise be lost and so it’s not really fair to include it in this calculation. In her interview with Chris Kresser, Diana Rodgers says that if you take that “green water” out of the equation than the amount of water needed to produce a pound of beef is about 410 gallons and is “…very similar to rice, sugar, avocados, almonds, a lot of these foods that I’m not hearing a whole lot of complaining about. And then, when you look at 100 percent grass-fed beef, Nicolette Niman, in her book Defending Beef, explains that grass-fed beef is a lot closer to 100 gallons of water per pound of beef.” And another thing to keep in mind is how nutrient dense beef is. You can’t compare beef to vegetables when it comes to nutrient density. And if you do, meat will win every time! For more on this topic, I highly recommend listening to this podcast by Daniel Vitalis called Why I’m Not Vegan as well as his interview with Arthur Haines.
Meat raised through proper farming practices actually helps the environment!
This might not happen overnight but little by little you can improve the quality of the animal protein you are eating. Not only will you get superior nutrition, you’ll help the environment and do the right thing. Animals deserve to live healthy lives and have a humane death.
For further information about why the vegan diet isn’t healthy, read this article by Chris Kresser.