Veganism might make you feel better, but it won't save our asses

Originally published at:


So so tired of the “Slightly more correct than you are.” argument.


There’s a great response in the comments from another Guardian columnist, George Monbiot:

What Isabella and her husband have done at Knepp is beautiful. But we simply cannot use it as a general justification for eating meat. The Knepp estate supplies 0.0075% of the beef the UK eats, and there is nowhere else like it.
So what if everywhere was like Knepp, producing 54kg of meat/hectare? The UK’s 17.2m ha of farmland would produce slightly less beef than the UK eats. And nothing else. Knepp is wonderful. But as a general model it’s a formula for starvation.
As you know, I strongly support rewilding - of infertile and unproductive land. I do not support rewilding as a substitute for productive crop-growing. The amazing thing about a plant-based diet is that it uses far less land, releasing more for rewilding. According to the estimates by Simon Fairlie (himself a small livestock keeper), a vegan diet could feed all the UK’s people on just 3m hectares of land. Alternatively, all the productive farmland in the UK could be used to support 200m people.
By contrast, if Knepp-style production was applied across all the UK’s farmland, it would supply the UK’s population with around 75 kcal per person per day - roughly 1/30th of what we need to survive.


I don’t think that’s the argument here, though. It’s more about the larger picture, and how the goal should be sustainability in large scale agricultural projects, whether they involve meat and dairy or not. It’s less about individual choices that we might make for our health or moral ideals, and more about changing institutions that operate in unsustainable ways.


Tuesday is Soylent Green day.


I tend to think that if we can reduce meat consumption (as % of daily intake) to 19th c. levels, that’s a realistic goal. Everyone going vegan? Less so.


This reads like a “let’s compare us at our best to them at their worst” screed. Seriously? Comparing sustainable multicrop pasturage of animals (i.e. the way most meat is not produced) to monocrop conventional ag (a weird assumption, given vegans’ emphasis on local, organic, small-farm and co-op ag)? How ‘bout we crunch those numbers assuming the omnivores only each from Oklahoma chicken factories, and vegans only eat from monastic permaculture farms, eh’?


I guess I misread the article, because I didn’t get that it’s a screed at all? More like calling for institutional changes to how we grow/raise our food?

Again, it seems like she’s criticizing industrial production food in general, not just meat production, and saying that it’s unsustainable in general. Is she wrong on that, do you think?


Soylent Green, good people make good food.


Didn’t people eat a lot more meat and fewer vegetables back then? With transportation being what it was, vegetables only had a limited range to markets (unless canned).


Some people eat a vegan diet because of gastrointestinal and/or other medical problems. I don’t think those people think they’re going to stop climate change.


Good for you Seamus, for wading into this territory that will inevitably stir strong feelings in many people. I salute you and support you. Also, congratulations on your ketosis. It has worked well for me, also. (I am not implying that ketosis is best for everyone.)


Well, people got food locally more often than not which they grew themselves or got from community members, so shipping wasn’t a huge problem. And meat for many people was a luxury they could only afford a few times a year.


Vegans must be bashed and crushed, constantly and forever. Their “not eating meat” thing makes me feel a bit guilty somehow about all the meat that I eat, so I must find other reasons for bashing and crushing them, constantly and forever!



And another reality check on climate change. The real push to shame people for eating meat or flying is part of a calculated campaign to shift attention away from the people and corporations who are most responsible for global warming.


It’s not a bad argument, but it does feel like they have a hammer and want to explain how everything is nails. Like, the problem is soil depletion? what about making terra preta or some other kinds of industrial composting programs. The problem is ecosystem loss? What about super-dense hydroponic growing that can be done in skyscrapers, leaving as much land as possible to return to wilderness. What about rooftop gardening, what about bookchin-ite third nature interventions to create ideal habitats for “wild” species.
Anyway, we can support anyone who is doing reasonable praxis to make things better, we can be supportive of an ecology of tactics. Obviously vegans have a smaller ecological footprint than people buying industrial animal products, AND ALSO people buying animal products from eco-conscious holistic farms have a smaller ecological footprint than people buying industrial animal products.


About twice as much land in the US is used for growing animal feed as for growing people food.


Fruit and veggies last longer than raw meat when not refrigerated.


Does anyone have a good source for the claim/fact/conclusion that eating local is not as carbon-friendly as not eating meat and dairy?

(I mean: the “It’s not the miles, it’s the meat” argument.)

I’ve read this stuff but don’t know where to find it.

It will if the cannibals planning on eating your asses go vegan.