By: Emily Current
At a time when we are realizing that climate change is becoming an increasingly pressing issue, that our society as a whole doesn’t have the greatest eating habits, and that there are ethical issues surrounding meat production, many people are turning to veganism as a solution. Veganism, not eating any animal products, including eggs and milk, is often seen as healthy, environmentally-friendly, and socially-conscious, making it the magical solution to all of our problems, right? Not quite. While veganism is often presented as the best option for everyone, we need to realize that not only is veganism not perfect, but also that it is not an option for everyone.
First, we need to consider the fact that veganism is an individual choice and it is not always the best option for everyone. Consider for instance, people recovering from eating disorders. Veganism requires a large amount of thought and time being put into what foods can and cannot be eaten, and many people in recovery cannot handle this amount of conscious restriction on what foods they can or cannot eat. The fact that veganism cuts away two of the four food groups is extreme, and many people may not have the time or energy to be able to find a healthy, balanced, vegan diet. So while veganism does have the potential to be healthy, it simply does not work for everyone.
One of the selling points for veganism is that it will supposedly help lessen the impact of climate change. It is reasoned that since plant agriculture requires less water and produces less greenhouse gases than farming meat, it is better for the environment. However, veganism isn’t the great solution to climate change that it is suggested to be. With veganism comes an increased demand for certain foods like quinoa and soy products (some of which must be imported) that actually leads to the development of monoculture of such crops. These monocultures lead to water depletion and drain soils of their nutrients, making this agriculture unsustainable. While eating plants may in fact have an impact on greenhouse gasses, it is not a flawless environmental solution.
Because veganism is not limited to food, but also extends to all animal by-products, there are some issues with veganism unrelated to nutrition. For example, some vegans avoid certain vaccines, like the flu shot, because they are typically grown in eggs. While this may only be a minority of vegans, it is still a problem that people are not getting vaccinated, which is important to maintaining health.
Veganism isn’t the great solution to climate change that it is suggested to be.
Veganism is also expensive, meaning that it is simply not an option for many people. For example, soy milk costs almost twice as much as regular milk. Even if you think that veganism is the way to go and that people should adopt it, it is not fair to tell people who cannot afford it that they should go vegan. If someone is struggling to pay for food in the first place, they should not be guilted into buying more expensive foods. It is important to realize that income is a factor for some consumers, and this means that not everyone has the option of even considering ethical purchasing.
Overall, people need to realize that veganism is not what it presents itself as being. Is it inherently healthy? It can be, but not for everyone and not easily. Is it better for the environment? Maybe, but it can lead to monocultures and water depletion. Is it socially-conscious? No, it is not financially accessible. While none of these issues are exclusive to veganism, they are important to take into account. Because of the way veganism is presented as an ideal to be adopted by everyone, it is critical that we stop and think about the ways in which this might not be true.
Photo Credit: Bettaveg