Over the past few years Veganism has become the latest fad trend that just won’t go away. Everywhere we look there are meat and dairy alternatives; from Ben and Jerry’s to Pizza Hut, it is now so easy to be vegan. In the last three years, veganism in the UK has soared to over 3.5 million people, making 5.5% of the British population a vegan.
It’s hard to avoid the harsh glare that veganism casts over society, from brands to social media influencers, everyone is cashing in on the craze. ‘it’s the latest health kick’, ‘the best way to lose weight!’ or ‘the only way to save the planet’. The online vegan community in particular is booming, endorsing in every new vegan product which promises to revolutionise your life. From beauty gurus to family bloggers, it’s cool to be vegan – but at what cost?
I think to start off with we need to break down veganism. It’s not as simple as don’t eat meat or dairy and you will save millions of animals. Its more complex than that. We all know the extent of which slaughtering animals for meat and mass production of dairy products can harm the environment but nobody talks about where the ingredients used for vegan products come from. Veganism is about saving the planet, right? Well palm oil, a major product used not only in the vegan community, but also by the rest of society in everyday products such as soap, crisps, bread and even Nutella, is destroying our planet. Palm oil consumption has nearly quadrupled over the last 20 years, being at nearly 61.1 million tons in 2015.
This means that palm oil is responsible for 8% of the world’s deforestation between 1990 and 2008. Every hour areas of rainforest equivalent to 300 football pitches is being destroyed each hour. Along with the destruction of the natural world, it also brings along the destruction of the animals living in it. Meaning although palm oil may be vegan, it is not cruelty free.
If we take a look back to Christmas, everyone should remember Iceland’s controversial politicised Christmas advert, campaigning to boycott the use of palm oil in products to save the animals being butchered when harvesting the oil. 150, 000 orang-utans have died in the islands of Borneo and Sumatra because of palm oil deforestation since 1999. According to national geographic 40,000 more are expected to die in the next 35 years if things don’t change. Veganism will have you blindly believing that everything they’re doing is making a conscience effort towards helping the environment, but many are not aware of the issues that their health craze is causing.
Not only does veganism contribute largely to the destruction of the natural world and the death of thousands of animals it is also harmful to people’s livelihoods too the new Instagram trend is to post stylish vegan food, which almost always includes avocados. People are capitalising on the vegan lifestyle, but at what price? The price is on the head of normal people in countries like Mexico, who can now no longer afford produce grown in their own towns.
Because of the high demand on fruits such as avocados, the supply can’t keep up with the demand and countries such as Kenya are at risk of being completely out of the crop. Mexican farmers are under so much pressure to produce which has sky rocketed the price of avocados in these countries. Despite the implications of exporting goods from these countries, they also come as a sole source of income for many countries making finding the balance between importing goods and supporting other countries through doing this, and over doing it to a point where a countries main produce is no longer locally available to them. It is everything in moderation.
Continuing with the idea of farming, veganism also heavily relies on mass crop production for their food supply. However, this is not a sustainable method of farming and along with palm oil, is destroying the natural world. Intensive crop farming or agriculture is where large areas of land, money and labour are used to increase crop production. When intensively farming on land large amounts of pesticides are used to insure the crops do not get destroyed.
Furthermore, intensively farming on one piece of land continuously means that the soil will no longer be fertilised, destroying it an rendering it useless until the soil has rejuvenated.
However, it is not sustainable to solely rely on exported goods even as food systems become increasingly global. Again, it is about finding the balance between maintaining people’s livelihoods by importing goods and relying on local sustainable farming.
Lastly, we need to highlight the many health implications that veganism can have on individuals. Veganism, done right, can be a healthy diet. However, because of the way veganism is promoted, as this ultra-healthy diet that can help you lose a lot of weight, many people do it wrong. Veganism is an extreme diet and without doing it correctly it can mean that there are serious health implications.
Because it is generally quite low calorie, the amount that you need to eat, is a lot more than the average diet meaning than many people are eating under the recommended calorie amount, which in itself can cause health implications. Furthermore, many people who suffer with eating disorders are using veganism as a guise in which to normalise their eating habits. Because veganism has suddenly become popular, there isn’t loads of information on what is the ‘right way’ to do it, therefore lots of people are falling ill.
Overall, it’s clear that veganism it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. This doesn’t mean to say, don’t be vegan, however, you’re not going to save the planet by being a vegan. Like any diet, it has its issues. Just as a predominantly meat-eating diet is contributing to destruction of the natural world, equally is veganism.