environmentalism · vegetarianism

Why Am I Not a Vegan?

[I promise that all of the posts this blog produces will not entirely follow diet trends]

As of right now,  I’ve given up my leather products, meat, any animal cruelty cosmetics and body care products, invested in reusable water bottles, and recycle constantly. I also make sure I stay on top of reading and learning about environmental issues, and trying to communicate them to other people.

After so many ooh’s and ah’s about the length of my vegetarianism, there have been people who definitely treat me as if I am half-assing my activism, and take the time to ask me why I am not a vegan, or if I have tried it, or if I have switched to that diet. Sometimes condescendingly, sometimes not condescendingly. I didn’t really have an answer at the time, so figured it was something worth looking into. Aside from it being a relatively expensive lifestyle choice, I wanted to do research. Could I healthily and eco-consciously make the switch? I spent hours upon hours of reading, product browsing, and weighing the benefits against my current vegetarian status.

So here is my answer. As an environmentally-minded person, I believe vegetarianism is the better solution for a healthy planet. Veganism relies heavily on soy-based product and substitution, and increased need for those crops fuels deforestation. Soy is also a crop that destroys the nutrient and mineral composition of the soil, so it takes a lot of fertilizer and planting of other crops after the soy has been cleared to restore any semblance of health to the fields. With these two very important factors, I found it unnecessary to switch to veganism to affirm my status as an enviro-activist to please those who consider themselves better than me in the fight for the planet. Do I agree with how a lot of animals in the dairy/egg/etc. industries are treated? No, absolutely not, but I do see animal activism and environmental activism as two separate things. Yes, vegan diets do eliminate the needs for those industries, but what do you sacrifice in return? To me, the current number of natural lands (i.e. the forests being destroyed for soy crops) is already too low and is not something we will see replenished or regrown in my lifetime. The added fertilizer requirements and additions to the soil to re-nourish those fields after soy is cleared also becomes a huge issue in terms of water pollution and how it impacts not just terrestrial ecosystems, but aquatic ones as well.

I’m slightly bitter about the way I’ve been approached by a lot of vegans, and I believe environmental protection is important to everyone, but if someone is doing something good for the planet and you believe you’re doing better, that does not give you the right to put that other person down or make them feel like they’re doing any less than you. We live in a society where the environment is something we see through screens and sometimes forget is a tangible object that we are responsible for and interacting with, whether it be by hiking or driving in a car. There are definitely right and wrong ways of approaching activism, but it all boils down to education, research, and opinion. My opinion is that vegan diets are too heavily based on deforesting crops like soy, and therefore do not do any better in the field of eco-friendliness than being a vegetarian does. There is always room for growth and improvement, there is always room for changing opinion, but right now mine stands as it is. I respect vegans, other vegetarians, people who promote environmental protection without modifying their diet. We are all a part of this earth, and we all should be individually and collectively working to protect it without making enemies and snubbing people because of their diet labels.