Veganism: The Key to a Sustainable Society

Veganism%3A+The+Key+to+a+Sustainable+Society

Isabelle Vergnaud, Freelance Writer

For the past couple of months, I’ve been mocked by my friends for being vegan. Veganism has become a joke on social media and social life, so people have started to mock me for it. Still, this lifestyle has the potential to change the world. There are three main reasons why people go vegan; ethical consumerism, environmental sustainability, and health benefits. In the past years, there has been a significant shift into this lifestyle, which has brought many skeptics with it. Many philosophers have even deemed it to be, “the next stage in human evolution”. This lifestyle has been advertised as the single best way to fight climate change. There are even people who believe that those who are environmentalists or activists but aren’t vegan are hypocrites. Such an extreme solution has made people scared of shifting towards a more plant-based diet. In order to save the environment, however, there needs to be a shift to a more vegan lifestyle. Nonetheless, this does not mean that every single person in the world needs to do it. Instead, having more people reduce how much meat they consume can have a bigger impact. 

Ethical consumerism is the first pillar of veganism. As consumers, we should be thinking about where all the items we buy and consume come from, even if we aren’t vegan. When you go buy food, do you think about the effects that producing that product has had on the environment or on the farmer? I don’t, and most people around me don’t either. Currently, there are many movements that aim to make the consumer more aware about the precedence of their food. For example, dolphin-free tuna, fair-trade coffee, and GMO-free food. Thinking about where the products that we are buying come from, and what process they went through to be produced is inherently a way to boycott unethical practices. As such, there are many movements and ethical ways of living that aren’t necessarily created by the vegan community. We can control what type of products we buy and this gives us the power to support causes that we care about. Having the option to do this also comes with great privilege. Usually, both vegan food and ethically-made products are much more expensive than normal ones. For example, a normal shirt can cost less than $10 while a shirt from a sustainable, vegan brand can cost more than $30. This happens because fast fashion is much cheaper, but most people can’t afford to buy these products. Not everyone has the option to be an ethical consumer. Not only is it more expensive, but it is more challenging to do. Hence and although becoming vegan is not accessible to everyone, more people could become aware and try to source their shopping from more sustainable producers, including vegan options. 

Even if people don’t go vegan, reducing the consumption of animal products can be beneficial to people’s health. According to Rush, a health care system and university in Chicago, a plant-based diet can promote weight loss, reduce the risk of heart disease and lower the chances of getting some types of cancer. There are many implications of having a vegan diet, such as social impediments and even vitamin deficiencies. So doing it well and not being too strict can be ways to make veganism more effective. If a lot of people reduced the excessive consumption of animal products and ate more whole-plant foods, their health would be better. Having a strict vegan diet isn’t necessary to get these benefits because simply shifting towards a healthier plant-based diet with little restrictions will encourage change itself. Still, animal products can have a lot of health benefits like providing necessary protein and vitamins. Meat lover Benjamin Vergnaud gave an example of his own life by stating how “Mostly protein I feel like it’s so hard. I don’t eat eggs so I would basically have to drink supplements all the time and I don’t want that.” As such, it is evident that it’s important to have a balanced diet no matter if it is vegan or not. 

If more people adopt a plant-based diet, food production will have to shift to meet the people’s demands. Meat production is a very inefficient way to feed the population. Animals aren’t as effective in turning feed into meat, so they create a huge environmental impact. This includes energy used to produce, pack and transport the products, pollution, and waste created by manure, non-usable animal parts, and the immense use of water. Clearly, a few people going vegan is not going to stop the meat industry. In order to do this, there needs to be a huge shift in society. We need to demand more plant-based products and start decreasing our consumption of animal-based products. This way, farmers will also have to change what they’re selling and reduce the production of such products. Most people have grown up eating a certain way and changing this isn’t easy. In Colombia, for example, there is a very strong meat-eating culture that shuns those who prefer not to eat meat. Thus, reducing meat consumption has a lot of cultural and social implications that make it very hard for many people. It takes a lot of work to change one’s habits and eating patterns. Nevertheless, it needs to be done for the good of the environment, which will ultimately benefit everyone. Again, it isn’t about going fully vegan, just reducing the consumption of animal products. 

Going vegan is hard for many people. It has a lot of great benefits, not only for the environment but also for everyone who is involved in the process of making these products. To answer my own question, no, not everyone should go vegan. However, everyone should try to reduce their consumption of animal products in order to change the world’s food production, and also obtain great health benefits.