With Climate Change being blamed for so much of the strange weather and the numbers of people, scientists and celebrities encouraging us to Save the Planet by going vegan, we felt it was a good time to ask our young bloggers the question, To Vegan or not to Vegan?
Veganism, is not the only way…
I’d like to start off this blog by mentioning that I am in fact a vegetarian of 1.5 years, whilst also being the daughter of a livestock farmer, so this debate is really important to me and I also recognise there is such a wide variety of opinions that exist.
“I am in fact a vegetarian of 1.5 years, whilst also being the daughter of a livestock farmer”
let’s start by listing the relevant facts: 60% of the mammals in the world are livestock reared for human consumption. Many animals, especially on factory farms and in the dairy industry, are treated terribly and live in inhumane conditions. Livestock rearing contributes to 14.5% of human derived greenhouse gas emission, globally. One of the biggest contributors to global deforestation is the creation of soy fields to feed cattle. Far more water is used to create meat than any other foodstuff, it is estimated that up to 150,000 gallons of water can be saved when someone in the USA adopts a plant-based diet.
“60% of the mammals in the world are livestock reared for human consumption”
Yet equally, eating meat has its benefits too. To start, it is an unmatchable source of protein and it has been eaten for millennia, despite the potentially harmful effects of red meat, it is far better than a highly processed diet. In the UK, livestock rearing helps to protect areas of land and the more natural grazing pastures, especially if fertilisers and herbicides are not used, can promote an increasing biodiversity- these places can be vital for the preservation of rare species such as butterflies, as is the case on a sheep grazing pasture near me. Eating local meat can also mean that the emissions released in transport is low and it needs little processing, compared to tofu, for example, which may have to be exported thousands of miles across the world and processed before reaching our plates. It is also associated with many cultural activities.
“there is one universal fact that we can agree on: we need to change our lifestyles to protect our environment”
So, what is the conclusion? To vegan or not to vegan? And how do we even start to analyse this evidence, as well as so much more that is out there? Well first, for everyone, the answer is going to be different however, there is one universal fact that we can agree on: we need to change our lifestyles to protect our environment. For some people, that may be only using public transport and cycling, never using a plane or installing solar panels on their house. For other people, they can do their part by reducing their animal product consumption.
How much does a vegan diet really help the environment though? A lot, actually. The biggest factor is that animals need far more inputs and energy than plants would. This is due to trophic levels- you learn about them in biology- and as you move up the food chain, or you move further away from the plants where photosynthesis occurs, energy is dissipated before it reaches our plates by the organisms themselves just living, moving and walking. As well as this, animals, especially cattle are huge contributors to methane (greenhouse gas) emissions which are causing global warming and in many countries around the world, vast amounts of deforestation is occurring to grow the soy plants needed for cattle fields.
“What you can be sure of though, is that there will be always a way to make your diet more sustainable, so I hope that you will consider changing it just a little bit”
But veganism, is not the only way to make your diet more environmentally friendly, simply adopting a more plant-based diet and replacing some of your meals with meat alternatives can be great too. Or perhaps stopping eating certain foods such as avocados or products with palm oil which are really bad for the environment too, due to the nature of how they are grown. (But is all palm oil really as bad as we think it is… why not do the research!) What you can be sure of though, is that there will be always a way to make your diet more sustainable, so I hope that you will consider changing it just a little bit after reading this, even if you just become a pescatarian!
Ella, 15, Driffield
Read more from Ella
Veganism has LOADS of benefits…
From Ariana Grande to Chris Smalling, celebrities from around the world have been turning Vegan for their health, the environment and their ethics but what is Veganism and does it have any benefits?
“Veganism is different to vegetarianism as vegetarians can eat milk and eggs”
Veganism is a lifestyle in which one does not consume or use any animal products including milk, meat, eggs and fish. In 2019 there were 600,000 vegans, or 1.16% of the population. Veganism is different to vegetarianism as vegetarians can eat milk and eggs.
Benefits to going vegan
There are many benefits to going vegan, for yourself, the environment and animals. Here are some of them:
- It’s great for your health as it has shown to decrease blood sugar levels, prevent some cancers, help you lose weight and give you more of certain nutrients.
- Going vegan helps to stop animal cruelty. By refusing to buy animal products, demand for them is decreased and so fewer animals suffer and are slaughtered.
- Veganism is great for the environment. Researchers at the University of Oxford found that going vegan could reduce your carbon footprint from food by up to 73%.
- Veganism can open your world to new and delicious foods! There are so many delicious vegan foods that you probably haven’t tried and why would you want to live your life without them?
- There is a fantastic vegan community! If you feel like you need some support in going vegan, there’s a huge vegan community around you. Try following the vegan hashtag on social media or join a vegan group/society in your city.
- Veganism can help end poverty. If the land that was used for feeding and keeping animals, bred for slaughterhouses, was used for growing crops instead, imagine how many more people we could feed!
- Veganism can help you save money. Many people assume veganism is an expensive lifestyle but it’s not. This is because most vegan meals are based off fruits and vegetables which are cheaper than meat and the only products that can sometimes be expensive are those that are mock-meats and processed foods.
Common vegan misconceptions
- Veganism is a fad diet. Many people advise against diets as they can be bad for your health, but veganism isn’t a diet, it’s a lifestyle! This is because by going vegan you also avoid products like leather and fur which is obviously not included in your diet!
- Veganism won’t let me have my favourite foods. Some people also say they won’t go vegan because they will miss meat but almost all supermarkets AND restaurants have vegan options and alternatives that taste just like meat!
- Veganism means no protein. Many vegan foods such as vegetables, fruits and chia seeds are LOADED with protein and nutrients, so protein deficiency is NOT an issue.
“Veganism is a lifestyle in which one does not consume or use any animal products including milk, meat, eggs and fish”
Overall, veganism clearly has LOADS of benefits so why not give it a try whether it’s for a week or a year! Remember to look for documentaries (there are loads on Netflix), books and social media if you ever become stuck on your journey!
“In 2019 there were 600,000 vegans, or 1.16% of the population”
Stay healthy and stay safe!
Khushi, 16, Leicestershire
Read more from Khushi
Don’t confuse vegans with vegetarians…
Vegans don’t eat any type of red meat, poultry, fish or animal by-products (e.g. gelatine, eggs, dairy). But don’t confuse vegans with vegetarians, who can eat animal products just not the meat.
“Vegans don’t eat any type of red meat, poultry, fish or animal by-products (e.g. gelatine, eggs, dairy)”
For going Vegan:
- For animals = As a result of being vegan, it can help to reduce the mass exploitation of animals. Many people believe the exploitation of vulnerable animals is denying their right to life and freedom, so avoiding animal products can take a stand against animal cruelty everywhere. This is why being vegan can demonstrate a true compassion for animals, so in turn to all life and humanity
- For health = Going vegan is a great opportunity to learn more about nutrition and cooking and improve your diet. Well-planned diets follow healthy eating guidelines and contain all the nutrients the body need- so being vegan can be suitable for every age. Also, many studies suggest that vegan diets can reduce the risk of becoming overweight, so this can reduce the risk of long-term diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
- For the environment = The production of meat and other animal products places a danger on the environment – from crops and water required to feed the animals, to the transport. It’s also a significant contributor to deforestation, due to the large amount of land required, habitat loss and species extinction. On the other hand, considerably lower quantities of crops and water are required to sustain a vegan diet, so becoming vegan is one of the easiest, most enjoyable and most effective ways to reduce impacts on the environment.
“The UK has seen a 360% increase in vegans in the last 10 years”
Against going Vegan:
- Expensive = Being vegan can be expensive, but it is by no means a necessity. As with any eating pattern, a vegan diet can be as expensive or as cheap as we want it to be. Even though, a plant-based diet is substantially cheaper than most diets out there, but many foods in a vegan diet can be more expensive, for example soya milk over dairy milk.
- Cannot make much of an impact = The UK has seen a 360% increase in vegans in the last 10 years, and other indicators also show veganism is on the rise. But there is still a large proportion of meat-eaters in the world, so as an individual, you will not make a significant impact for animals and the environment alone.
Read more from Emma
I don’t see the point in your decision…
Dear friend, I was surprise at the last letter when you informed me that you’ve decided to go on a vegan diet. At first, I was sceptical because, I didn’t exactly know how to react or how much I should have believed your words as going suddenly on a vegan diet is a life-changing decision.
“I didn’t exactly know how to react or how much I should have believed your words”
Are you sure you really want to do this?
I was looking up some more information on the internet about veganism and did you know that the word vegan comes from a contraction of the noun veg(etatari)an? It was coined by Donald Watson, founder of the Vegan Society against Vegetarians who ate dairy food; So, is it basically an extreme version of vegetarianism? Whereas, the Oxford Dictionary defines a vegan as “a person who does not eat any animal products such as meat, milk or eggs. Some vegans do not use animal products such as silk or leather”
“is it basically an extreme version of vegetarianism?”
Then here I started wondering what do you eat? Why would you choose to be vegan? Is it a matter of ethics? It must be, you always used to eat loads of meat!
So, I tried to put myself in a vegan’s point of view to analyse the reasons behind this choice.
You don’t need to love animals to decide not to hurt them, it’s a matter of justice and respect. Animals feel pain, suffering but also affection, love and joie de vivre as human beings. Animals in farming, experience enormous suffering, of all kinds, to be killed at the end, as they are raised for their products.
My mind couldn’t go further than these thoughts, so I spoke to one of my mum’s friends, who’s vegan herself. She said that the “vegan diet is the best alimentation for man and that even doctors’ advice it, veggies contain all sufficient nutrients as they have their own proteins, eating meat is not so healthy and lastly human beings are anatomically vegan, we should all draw inspiration from our gorilla and chimpanzee ancestors”.
I was shocked.
“I was shocked. We’ve always eaten animal proteins during our evolution”
We’ve always eaten animal proteins during our evolution, humans’ anatomy and physiology are the ones of omnivores: Luca Avoledo, Italian biologist and nutritionists, says “ a diet rich in animal protein has helped in the expansion of the brain, we would probably still live in forests as chimpanzee and gorillas if we hadn’t eaten any[…] meat is healthy, an excess in red meat may be defined as harmful (as any other food), it’s a food with nutritional qualities[…], for those who have a diet without animal food, the risk of deficiency is much higher; vitamin B12 deficiency, absent in vegetables, is sooner or later an inevitable consequence of the vegan diet. Zinc, iron, calcium, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids are other nutrients that the vegan diet tends to be lacking unless it is conducted in an extremely careful and scrupulous way.”
What really bugs me is that they may really think that what they do is cruelty free, but the situation doesn’t change much when eating only non-animal products, there are still animals that are going to suffer, such as worms, maybe bees and any other insects which had formerly lived in that field that’s now producing vegetables (e.g. by ploughing). This means that insects suffer and are killed to produce food (vegetables) and mammals and birds suffer and are killed to produce food (meat and dairy products), it’s the same thing but in one type of diet you are depriving yourself of important nutrients when in the other you’re not.
“Even vegans directly depend on animals to survive”
Even vegans directly depend on animals to survive: the same plants that make up their diet have been pollinated by bees and cultivated thanks to the manure produced by livestock. They are still undirect animal products.
I’m sorry but I honestly don’t see the point in your decision. I would kindly ask you to reconsider your choice, search for some more information, only from experts not from ideologists as I don’t want you to harm yourself but if you’re very determined in taking this path try not to deprive yourself of important nutrients, try to be as healthy as possible.
Please be careful
Read more from Gloria
Welcoming more people into sustainable hope
We’ve all been there. Standing on the high street wondering whether or not the new but slightly expensive vegan shop is worth going into or not.
Veganism is a fast-growing culture that is powering towards a sustainable world. Many young people across the UK have considered joining this sensational movement but are nearly always stopped by the money barrier. Interest in ‘veganism’ increased sevenfold in the five years between 2014 and 2019, according to google trends; the vegan population continues to lack new people due to the slightly raised price. So, how do we overcome this problem? Simple: join the movement.
“Interest in ‘veganism’ increased sevenfold in the five years between 2014 and 2019”
Since the beginning of 2020, every one of the top UK supermarkets have a vegan range. 2020 became the year that every one of the UK restaurants / food-to-go outlets had a vegan (or plant-based) offering. Since the start of small ‘Go Vegan’ projects across UK, many companies have taken the initiative of introducing vegan-friendly options at a not so high price.
Furthermore, research conducted by plant-based news, proves that eating vegan is more money efficient than ‘those who eat meat spend a whopping £645 extra a year on food, compared to those on a meat-free diet’.
“research conducted by plant-based news, proves that eating vegan is more money efficient than ‘those who eat meat spend a whopping £645 extra a year”
Therefore, new research proves that any money-based problem that might have created a barricade is removed, welcoming more people into the sustainable hope of a better vegan world.
Jaisha, 14, Ascot
Read more from Jaisha