I guess it makes sense for the first of the Keeper Vegan Blogs to really lay out why I chose this lifestyle.
I took up being a vegan earlier this year. There were various factors, but what really clinched it for me was the environmental impact.
“You can’t call yourself an environmentalist and eat meat. Period.” – Howard Lyman, animal rights activist.
After trying, and struggling, to adopt a vegan diet I ended sitting down and watching ‘Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret’ on Netflix. I didn’t set out to watch something pertaining to veganism, I was simply looking for a documentary to watch about the environment. Now, I’ve never been anything like an activist, but I’ve always felt some naive level of pride in my understanding of the issues facing our planet. I tried to recycle, turn the tap off when I brush my teeth and avoid littering. I grew up in the countryside, and seeing the results of fly-tipping and bored vandalism really wound me up. Turns out, I had no idea.
I won’t retread the ground that Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn do in their documentary, which I absolutely recommend everybody watch. In fact, you can find a good overview of the film here. The basic premise is that the single biggest cause of environmental destruction and damage is being done by the agriculture industry; raising, grazing and processing livestock and fishing. The numbers are scary, and the level of damage being done to the planet is horrifying, and worst of all – no-one is talking about it.
Now, as a stickler for research and making sure that I’m not just blindly following the word of others, I’ve spent a lot of time going over the claims of the film and taking a look at the film’s supporters and detractors, so as to determine whether the film is accurate in its accusations of the global agriculture industry. As such, I have two main points:
Point one: A large number of the criticisms of the film that I have read focus on the fact that most of the people interviewed in the film are vegan. This typifies an attitude that many vegans are finding across the country; to be a vegan is an accusation in and of itself. No other socially-accepted lifestyle choice draws as much challenge and criticism as being a vegan. I’ve seen it, vegans I know have seen it, and sometimes it happens closer to home than I’d like to think. To simply state your dietary choices commonly leads to people arguing or debating the ‘demerits’ of being a vegan – most of which are completely false but we’ll come on to this at a later date – and many people find themselves being treated with derision. Would people cutting out sugar to be healthy take this form of what could ostensibly be called bullying? Would people treat followers of a religion as such for their choices?
This overt defensiveness in the face of a vegan is commonplace, and in the context of the above point, many of the criticisms levelled at ‘Cowspiracy’ focus on the fact that the ‘experts’ featured in the documentary are ‘in on it’, are ‘on their side’. That the people who are discussing these points are vegan makes perfect sense, but it is seen more as an organised attack on the meat-eaters rather than a logical extension of what these people know. People who discuss the dangers of smoking in anti-tobacco documentaries rarely smoke. It’s the same principle.
Point two: The critics of the documentary that do bring up scientific proof or research statistics that disagree with the content of the film are often focusing on individual claims concerning specific issues or geo-political instances. Instead of arguing with individual statistics and comments in an isolated context, isn’t it more important to look at the overall argument of the film? Does it really matter?
Let me put it this way; you find out that something you did had a good chance of severely hurting someone else. Say, every time you ate nuts in your house, your severely nut-allergic child would get really sick – you’d stop eating nuts, right? And then if someone comes along and says ‘there’s a chance that eating nuts isn’t what makes your child so sick’, would you go back to eating nuts?
Of course not. If there was even a chance that what you were doing could hurt someone you cared about, you wouldn’t do it.
So when the debate is opened up and it comes off that maybe eating meat and dairy isn’t having a destructive impact on the planet, why take the risk? We already know, beyond any form of doubt, that the planet is in serious trouble. The ocean is polluted and sick, wildlife is disappearing and the planet’s ice is disappearing at an alarming rate. These things are scientifically proven. Fact. So if rejecting animal products can make a difference, even if it’s just a chance, why would we not make that change?
Now, I started Keeper Vegan knowing first-hand how hard it is being a vegan here in the UK. We are seeing more market inclusion of vegan-friendly products on supermarket shelves, but we’re not there yet. KP is all about encouraging collaboration and conversation among vegans, providing information and support and most importantly, promoting the inclusion and education of non-vegans. Too often have I seen recipe boards and forums devolve into unpleasant attacks between vegans, all competing to be the ‘veganest’.
“Your food is actually evil because you used a brand of sugar that is actually purified with animal bone char, therefore you are a false vegan and a terrible person. I spit on you.” – a mildly-paraphrased recipe comment
Taking pot-shots at each other is not the answer, and neither is it any way to encourage the message of the lifestyle to other people. You cannot educate people who are on the defensive, and ultimately, we want as many people to be vegan as possible.
So, together, let’s promote the message, get the truth out there to others and encourage the inclusion of everyone.