I am grateful to Marcia C. Pearson, Joana Gardiner and Jo An Herbert for kick-starting awareness around our food choices and the environment. The angle they bring is well-documented and accurate. Modern agricultural practices have huge and devastating impacts on our environment. For those who missed their article, Think you can be a Meat & Dairy Environmentalist? Think Again, these specific areas of environmental damage via “animal-related” food production were covered:
- Global Warming & Air Pollution
- Water Pollution
- Land Use & Food Waste
- Rainforest Destruction
- Impact on Wildlife
- And a specific focus on fisheries
I would like to add two additional concerns:
- Superbugs. According to the FDA, approximately 80% of all antibiotics used in the USA are fed to livestock, contributing to the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
- New Zoonotic Diseases. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, zoonotic SARS-CoV likely evolved to infect humans by a series of transmission events between humans and animals for sale in China.
So, what are we to conclude when presented with the facts listed here and in Think you can be a Meat & Dairy Environmentalist? Think Again? The conclusion we are encouraged to draw is that a Vegan lifestyle is just plain better. But, is it? John Robbins’ book, Diet for a New America, covers the three core reasons for adopting a vegan lifestyle. They are as follows:
(1) Go vegan for your health! I read Diet for a New America, cover to cover, when I was twenty years old and switched over to Veganism almost immediately. For three years, I loved this diet. However, over time, I have met individuals for whom the vegan diet didn’t work well. Blood type-based diets, Paleo proponents, and Dr. Wahl (her new research shows impressive links between diet and reducing MS symptoms/progression) raise concerns about an entirely meat-free diet. Then we have my own experience when, much to my surprise, I found myself at the grocery store buying ten steaks (no joke) which I consumed with surprising passion over the next ten days. I was pregnant and my pregnant body had spoken. This experience reminded me that veganism is not for everyone.
(2) Go vegan for the animals! I see the world as a place of exchange and renewal based upon a natural cycle of death and birth, so I am not adverse to killing for food. What I am adverse to is TORTURE, which is what you find in the modern, industrial agricultural world. So I suggest a focus on sourcing. Across the board, when I consume meat, poultry, eggs, fish, or honey…I know the animals have lead a super high quality life. It took effort (and some luck) to make connections with farmers who I trust, and it takes a great deal of devotion to care for our own flock of chickens, but it is worth it. While industrial animal products still dominate global markets, there is a growing shift being fueled by every dollar spent on carefully SOURCED food. Your shopping choice matters. Your farmer matters. Labeling matters.
(3) Go vegan for the environment! Part One: Industrial agriculture is vicious to our environment, but my sources of animal-based food are not industrial agriculture. And, to be honest, hunting is about the most environmentally friendly option you can find, as ZERO resources are being used to raise the animals. There are, in other words, meat & dairy & egg sources that are environmentally friendly.
(4) Go vegan for the environment! Part Two: Some popular ingredients found in many “vegan-friendly” foods are terrible for the planet. Topping this list would be: Palm Oil. I avoid Palm Oil like the plague. Palm Oil is transported from the other side of the world (fossil fuel pollution) and grown on huge, mono-crop plantations (rainforest destruction – goodbye Orangutans, Tigers & Asian Elephants) which are planted on peatland. Peatland is made up of tens of thousands of years of plant debri dozens of feet deep which, when the forests are slashed and burned, continue to smolder for years. This makes it a top SOURCE of the most dangerous greenhouse gases on the planet. This article will help you avoid Palm Oil: http://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/which-everyday-products-contain-palm-oil. The point being, any diet (including veganism) can be bad for the environment if we casually source our food.
In closing, I have spent years on a Vegan Diet, Vegetarian Diet, 100% Raw Diet, I’ve dabbled in Paleo and I spent a few glorious months on Kathy Abascal’s TQI Diet. Conscious eating and conscious sourcing of our food…the stuff we build our bodies out of…is a wise and fabulous subject worthy of exploration. It can save your life (literally), protect animals from egregious torment, and bring balance back to our badly damaged world. However, for all of these goals, I have found that each diet model can be part of the problem or part of the solution…based upon SOURCING. Which means, we’ve all got to keep our thinking caps on! If you want to go vegan, do so. It can be a lean, morally upstanding, delicious option. However, so can other diet modalities. Just keep your brain engaged as you search for the best option for you, your partner, your children, your pets…your world.
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