Tuesday , May 28 2024

Veganism’s dark side

This article was first published here.

Veganism is a phenomenon. Young people are going vegan en masse. The “plant-based movement” is taking hold across the West, while eco-socialist campaign groups such as Greenpeace and Peta are becoming bolder than ever in their insistence that anyone who eats meat or drinks milk wants to see the Earth burn.

The science paints a different picture; going vegan hurts the planet rather than helps it – and causes a wealth of other problem, too.

In France, Germany and other European countries, more than 1 in 20 young adults have sworn-off animal products and are living a vegan lifestyle. In an effort to stop what they call the “climate crisis”, millions of young people around the world have given up meat and dairy and are pursuing a “plant-based lifestyle”.

Aggressive marketing campaigns by the vegan lobby have made this seem like a necessary step to combat climate change.

It’s true that meat production causes greenhouse gas emissions but that doesn’t mean going vegan is an improvement. Vegan food products have their own environmental impacts, which are often much worse than animal farming.

Take milk substitutes, for example. Oat milk often contains glyphosate, a pesticide those same vegan campaigners decry as kryptonite for nature.

Other milk substitutes are not much better. The almond version demands a huge amount from the natural environment to produce. It requires so much water it has been linked to droughts and it leads to the deaths of millions of bees each season.

Coconut milk demolishes soil fertility, leaving it near-impossible to use to grow anything else afterwards. Rice milk has been known to contain arsenic.

Vegan meat substitutes are no better. Almost all of them are made of soya beans. Soya bean farming is like a game of bingo for new environmental problems. Its plants take up a lot of land, so expanding soya production leads to accelerated deforestation and the destruction of natural habitats, undermining biodiversity. Soya beans also cause soil erosion. And, to top it all off, soya farming emits large amounts of greenhouse gases: the very problem with meat production the vegans were trying to avoid.

The negative consequences of veganism go beyond the environment. The expansion of soya production can also have a negative impact on some of the poorest communities in the world in places such as Southeast Asia.

It leads to displacement of people and the loss of traditional livelihoods. Low-paid workers are going about their business when a Western company charges in, taking over vast swathes of land to grow soya beans to cater to young vegans, destroying the environment, the community, and the local economy in one fell swoop.

It is ironic that, in their quest to save the planet, young progressives look likely to harm both the environment and some of the poorest communities in the world. To compound the irony, there are solutions to the problem of greenhouse gases from meat production that makes mass veganism unnecessary.

Free-market innovation is doing the hard work for us. There have been countless strides forward in this area already, such as a start-up making a seaweed-based supplement for cows to cut their methane output.

Unfortunately, young vegans, egged on by Greenpeace and the like, don’t want to hear it. The de-growth, eco-socialist mindset says any progress without sacrifice is circumspect.

For the “green” martyrs, the only way to save the planet is to undo technological progress and go back to living in mud huts. Anything less makes you complicit in the climate crisis, and most probably a ‘denier’.

Environmental problems such as climate change are complex. Going vegan is not the solution. Short-sighted lifestyle changes which swap animal-sourced products for more harmful soya-based ones are an archetype of what is wrong with the green movement today.

We all want to save the planet, but burying our heads in the sand on the negative effects of veganism will only make things worse.

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