Why Veganism? Busting Myths.

Updated: Aug 26, 2020

How Adopting Even a Handful of Vegan Practices is Good for You and the Environment

It is the year 2020, and veganism has rapidly ascended to become the new trend of contemporary 21st century living. Mostly adopted by millennial youth culture, it is widely considered that veganism is one of the most ethical ways of living. I remember a wise statement that the founder of ABT, Kate Sinclair, once said to me a few years ago when engaging in one of our very philosophical and bizarre chats in Costa Coffee; she said, “veganism is one of the only ways you can be absolutely sure that no harm is being done to a living being”. To concur with such an intelligent perception of veganism, the first thing that must be done in order to convince one to adopt even a handful of practical tips from veganism, is to bust the six biggest myths most commonly pondered by non-vegans to this day.

A disclaimer that must be mentioned before myths become busted, however, is that I myself am not a vegan. Yet, having been a vegetarian my whole life, I decided in 2017 to adapt to a more environmentally-aware lifestyle, of which veganism became a significant part. Today, around 70% of what I consume is vegan, hence I have learnt some incredible facts about this lifestyle in which I hope will allow me to give others an insight into this new age of harmonious and sustainable living.

Myth number 1: “But we’re part of the food chain and consuming meat and dairy is what we’re evolved to do!”

Yeah, maybe in the Stone Age! 2.6million years ago, when a less-evolved version of humans existed, we only had the tools and teeth to hunt and capture animals in the wilderness surrounding our homes, which were quite literally constructed out of rocks. As humanity and the earth have progressed, humans have evolved into having blunt teeth no longer adapted to feast on wild animals, whilst we also have an abundance of alternatives to meat available to us, such as cultivated sources of food and wild and edible vegetation necessary for contemporary diets. Therefore, to believe that it is in our nature as humans in the 21st century to still be consuming animals and milk produced for their young, is an outdated view in the modern world. Furthermore, it seems senseless to continue a lifestyle which was practiced by our ancestors in a world where rapid change and modernisation has dominated almost every other area of our lives.

Myth number 2: “Well other animals eat meat too, so why can’t we?”

In order to bust this myth, Elanor Clarke’s ‘The Little Book of Veganism’ is worth referencing. Clarke comments in their ‘What Veganism means: A brief Q&A’ chapter, that “a surprisingly large number of people seem to think that because lions (…or some other wild animals) eat meat, that means we should too”. Unlike homo sapiens, animals are not evolved to cultivate their food – only to hunt – and therefore, they have no other alternative. Consequently, Clarke concludes that “it is true that not every animal on this planet can be vegan”. However, Clarke draws upon the analogy of other wild animal behaviours that humans would be extremely quick to reject: “…it should be noted that citing a wild animal at a point of reference is flawed. Lions also kill other males’ young when they mate, so should humans do that, too?”[1] The only answer that a moral and sane individual would give, is of course, no. So, if we reject this practice, why should we bat an eyelid to some and not others?

Myth number 3: “But, protein…how is that even possible for vegans!?”

This myth is easy to bust, simply because it is based on a significant lack of research! Again, Clarke makes an educated comment: “The idea that ‘protein’ is a specific food group is incorrect…different food (groups)…even potatoes, contain protein”. Furthermore, it is scientifically proven that a healthy human body only demands the nine essential amino acids, all of which are easily found in vegan foods: rice, beans and tofu are only a handful! To conclude, meat and dairy is absolutely not required for a healthy and balanced diet. This can be supported by the fact that many elite athletes embrace a wholly vegan diet, including Lewis Hamilton, Venus Williams, and boxer, David Haye[2].

Myth number 4: “Okay, but surely a vegan diet is virtually impossible in developing/third world countries?”

In the previous myth, I discussed how the opposite is in fact true. Meat is expensive to buy in developing countries and is often seen as a luxury food item. Because of the difficulty in producing healthy livestock for milking and slaughter in the harsher climactic conditions, as well as the competition for space to farm livestock, the markets in these countries tend to seek higher prices as a result of the extensive effort required in the process. Therefore, as fresh native vegetables are much easier to grow and require significantly less land and water, they are consequently cheaper and are therefore used more frequently in dishes in developing countries. An example is in India, where, as Joslyn Chittilapally exposes, “…there are ample grounds to show that the shift towards veganism in India is growing at an unprecedented rate”[3], with 31% of its population currently identifying as vegan.

Myth number 5: “I understand the choice to be vegetarian, but what is the problem with milk and other dairy products?”

It is understandable that the questions surrounding dairy consumption are such prominent ones, as the truths about this industry are not as commonly exposed as those of the meat industry. Although many non-vegans refuse to believe it, the

dairy industry is arguably just as cruel as the meat industry. This can be seen in the treatment of cows, whose calves are immediately taken away from their mothers seconds after birth to avoid a connection between parent and child forming, so that there will be limited confrontation and distress from their mothers if they were to be taken at a later time. Female calves usually have the same fate as their mothers, whereas the males become veal as they have no other purpose to fulfil. Furthermore, I will draw on a comment by Clarke one final time. Clarke states that “calcium contained in milk can be hard for the human body to access because of the acidifying nature of milk” which calves are adapted to consume, unlike us humans. The list of alternatives is vast, including soya milk (my personal favourite), almond, oat, hazelnut, coconut, rice milk and many more![4].

Finally, myth number 6: “But soya and vegan farming is bad for the environment too”.

It is not uncommon for vegan farming practices to receive a substantial amount of criticism, with many individuals believing that it is just as destructive to our tropical and highly biodiverse rainforests as animal agriculture, yet this is highly untrue. Although it is a well-known scientific fact that any form of farming is in some way destructive, the level and scale of vegan farming is nowhere near the sheer destructive scale of animal agricultural practices, which account for 80% of current deforestation rates[5]. For example, regarding the staple meat alternative, soya, Wexler observes the fact that whilst soya is “Brazil’s biggest export in value…most of the world’s soya is fed to livestock [and] only 6% of it is eaten directly by humans”[6], proving that animal agriculture and cattle farming remains the driving force behind continents like South America’s toxic greenhouse gas production. Furthermore, it must be noted that a vegan diet produces half the amount of greenhouse gas emissions than an omnivorous one, again demonstrating that the most effective way to avoid an unsustainable and harmful diet, is to adopt veganism.

Source: Greenpeace

The overall message:

Interestingly, even as early as when one of the first scientific discoveries was conducted in the mid-1880s, Charles Darwin wrote: “There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, misery and happiness”[7]. Having the knowledge about the similarities that exist between earth’s animals and humans, should be enough to initiate some thought and discussion towards achieving a more moral and less destructive way of living. I can appreciate that adopting such a lifestyle may seem daunting and almost impossible, but rest assured that, as with every process, it can be achieved over time and will be easier for some than others. I hope that by busting these myths, in the years that lie ahead of us, it will not just be the youth of today who will begin to embrace even a small part of this ethical, all-loving, incredibly healthy and beneficial way of living in our modern world.

[1] Clarke, Elanor. ‘The Little Book of Veganism’. (2015). Summersdale Publishers Ltd. [2] Edsor, Bobbie. ‘These 14 elite athletes are vegan – here’s what made them switch their diet’. (November 2017). https://www.businessinsider.com/elite-athletes-who-are-vegan-and-what-made-them-switch-their-diet-2017-10?r=US&IR=T#barny-du-plessis-bodybuilder-6 [3] Chittilapally, Josyln. Lifegate, ‘Veganism in India, how the dairy loving country is embracing a plant-based diet’. (December 2019). https://www.lifegate.com/people/lifestyle/veganism-in-india [4] ProVeg International, ‘The 10 best non-dairy vegan milk alternatives.’ (March 2018). https://proveg.com/plant-based-food-and-lifestyle/vegan-alternatives/the-10-best-non-dairy-vegan-milk-alternatives/ [5] Global Forest Atlas, ‘Cattle ranching in the Amazon region’. Yale school of Forestry and Environmental studies. https://globalforestatlas.yale.edu/amazon/land-use/cattle-ranching [6] Wexler, Josie. ‘Is Soya Sustainable?’ (February 2019). https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/food-drink/soya-sustainable [7] Richards, Jennie. Humane Decisions, ‘Charles Darwin – The lower animals, like man, feel pleasure and pain, happiness and misery’. (April 2016). https://www.humanedecisions.com/charles-darwin-the-lower-animals-like-man-feel-pleasure-and-pain-happiness-and-misery/

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