If the current global crisis has been a time to think about food and those who produce it, it should also be a time for some of us to rethink how we can really help.
For some, changing to a vegan diet may seem like an obvious choice to save the planet or animals. But it’s the wrong choice – and here are eight reasons why.
- Mutuality. Man has always lived in a mutually beneficial relationship with animals. It’s a contract – we provide for them, they provide for us. Someone who cares deeply for an animal and then puts it in the food chain for our benefit is not a monster. People who think we’re beyond that because we live in the rich, overfed world insult those who don’t agree.
- Dependency. The survival of huge numbers of people in the world depends on animals – for food, clothing, fuel and transport. Their economies and cultures are based on it. We are not superior to them. What’s more, importing their commodities gives us a lifestyle that is a luxury by their standard and is not defensible.
- Sustainability. Our consumption of the world’s resources and our environmental footprint are massive, compared with the people I’ve been talking about. Unless we really live off the grid, everything we do contributes. Eating soya instead of meat doesn’t change that – quite the opposite.
- Responsibility. We are what we eat. How can it be wrong to eat something produced where we can see it, raised on grass, water and sunshine, and right to eat something highly processed and flavoured, made from imported products? Do we know how it was grown, its carbon footprint or how good for us it is?
- Health. What we eat now isn’t unhealthy, we just eat too much and we don’t eat a balanced diet. Meat is part of a balanced diet, as is fish and dairy. Switching to a plant-based diet is not the answer. If we are concerned about where our food comes from, let’s buy local and eat seasonal. We won’t get fooled, either.
- Individualism. We think we’re standing up for ourselves and the planet, but we’re being taken for a ride. Supermarkets, advertisers, fitness gurus, trendy restaurants and cookery book writers love what we are doing. We’re the new market, and they will take every penny we have. As for helping the environment…
- Conservation. The countryside we love is not maintained by people with mowers and shears – it is grazed by animals. We couldn’t grow anything but grass on two-thirds of it. Why not take a free resource and use it to feed people and store carbon, while looking after the landscapes, habitats and species we value so much? Not to mention what’s under our feet…
- Soil. Now that we’ve seen the results of years of large-scale arable cropping, we want to get animals back on the land. It’s not just about grass; the soil under animals’ hooves benefits hugely from all those micro-processes involved in grazing, treading, and recycling of nutrients that billions of flora and fauna depend on. Livestock are life.
If we feel better for being vegan, fine. But we’re not saving the world. We have no right to preach. And no justification for doing atrocious things to people who have just proved their worth to us in this crisis.