Vegans often face strong criticism for their beleifs and the way in with they present their beliefs. It's time to answer a few of these accusations.
As vegans, we are used to criticism and ridicule. Some of the criticism can be debated, some of it consists of pointless “but bacon” comments that are about as relevant as Betamax video.
“Vegans are so preachy” whine people who have yet to fully consider an animal-free diet. Our take on this is that “the voiceless now have a voice”. In other words, the anti- speciesism standpoint does not recognise the human animal as being superior to any other animal. All sentient beings have a right to life free from torture and exploitation. Therefore, we are merely speaking out for those who cannot speak out for themselves.
I have mentioned in previous blogs that vegans have wildly differing approaches to their beliefs, so to bring such criticism in an unfair attack on a broad church of ideas and approaches.
One must also take into account the constant stream of images promoting the meat industry through advertising and product placement. Vegans are force-fed the view that their lifestyle is somehow outside of the accepted norm on a daily basis – so why shouldn’t they highlight an alternative?
“But what about wild caught/freerange meat?” is another argument I’ve heard. The word “freerange” is a little misleading as it’s just another form of intensive animal production. There is a set of guidelines you have to follow in order to label animals “freerange”, and they really give the animals concerned very little freedom at all.
The notion of “wild” food can be misleading too – for example, pheasants are raised to be shot and raised in intensive and cruel methods – the same goes for the hugely environmentally damaging grouse shooting. On estates where animals are raised for the hunting industry wildlife is strictly controlled and predators are caught and killed for doing what comes naturally. Fish stocks too are managed in such a way as to maximize profits for the estates which own the fishing rights in a particular area.
“What about the wildlife killed in growing vegan food” is another one we’ve heard on a number of occasions. Studies done in this field (no pun intended) suggests the number of animals killed by harvests are very small, although predators such as owls find it easier to hunt rodents and small mammals after the cops are gathered. Interestingly, the number of animals living in neighbouring fields often increases following a harvest, suggesting that our little friends merely move.
The amount of land and water used to raise food for plant-based diets has also come under fire. I find this attack the most ludicrous really. Animals raised for food have to eat too. Therefore, land and water is needed to feed animals to rear them for consumption. The animals themselves need land to live on (although they usually don’t get enough), and quite often, soya is grown intensively to feed livestock. Internationally, soya is hugely environmentally damaging to produce and more than 95 per cent of it is used in the meat industry.
The amount of wildlife habitat destroyed for soya production is staggering. Of course, the production of palm oil (often used in processed meat products too) is a hot topic at the moment, and vegans are, on the whole, very careful to either avoid palm oil or make sure it is sourced in a sustainable manner. Also, palm oil is used in animal feeds for both livestock and pets.
In addition to this, the environmental impacts of meat production must come under consideration. Livestock is transported to and from slaughter and the animals’ feed is also transported. Cattle produce methane of their own too, so the environmental implications of the meat industry are huge. Even raising chickens for slaughter has a significant impact on greenhouse gasses. The use of water has been raised too – but animals need drinking water, the crops to feed the animals need water and the slaughter process also uses water. I think when added together the amount of water used to grow plants for human consumption will be rendered irrelevant.
I’m sure there are other points non-vegans would like to raise with me, in which case feel free, us vegans are always up for a debate.