I’m sure most of you have seen the latest Guardian report on the adverse effects of Almond farming in California (from where comes almost all our Almond milks) on the bee population. If you haven’t, I highly encourage you to give it a read. The article broke a lot of vegan hearts around the country, but to me, it just confirmed a bittersweet uneasiness I’ve been feeling this past year as I saw veganism sweep the world like a storm.
Every time I see plant-based meats in the news, along with that ‘Oooo yaaay!’ feeling, comes that ‘but what if…’ wave of discomfort in my gut. And my super-magical-gut has yet to let me down, intuitively speaking.
As a fellow vegan, the rise of veganism should naturally make me happy, and yes, it definitely does. But like all other trends that come-and-go, I’m worried that people are taking up veganism for the wrong reasons, without the proper understanding of why it is the need of the hour, but most importantly, how it is not exactly a long term solution. While it may seem prudent to take anyone who wants to join the team, for a truly better future for the planet, one that is truly sustainable, we need to properly understand the root cause of our problems first before rushing to the first available solution.
As I wrote in one of my earlier Perspective articles [Liberal Vegan], I (and many others) choose veganism because of the way our current dependence on animal products has risen to unsustainable levels. But at the rate in which the plant-based craze is rising today, how much time do we have before that unsustainable dependence transfers from animals to plants? At that point, all we would have managed to do, is simply move the pointer from one evil to another. Which begs the question –What is the real evil here? The food source, OR the way we source it?
But at the rate in which the plant-based craze is rising today, how much time do we have before that unsustainable dependence transfers from animals to plants?
The fingers indubitably point right back to us.
According to the Guardian study about bees and almonds, one of the reasons stressing out the bees is the high use of pesticides in Almond farming. So is the answer organic farming? Not really. Organic farming yields are significantly lower than industrial farming yields, and will fail to meet the demands of an ever-growing population, even though in an ideal world, we would all eat organic, drink clean water, breathe pollution-free air and live in blissful peace with our neighbors. But ‘ideal’ is just a pipe dream now.
Another giant cause of concern (atleast for me) is the amount of processed plant-based foods that’s increasingly flooding the market. Companies are tripping over one another trying to release a constant slew of vegan foods to catch up with what is now, a sure-fire revenue stream. But how much effort is being spent into making sure that the products being rushed into market are ethically sourced, sustainably produced and packaged, and is definitely a better alternative to the regular, non-vegan product? I always thought that plant-meats (and now, plant-egg) were better used as temporary or occasional crutches to get you to the other side, but I fear that it is now becoming the stair lift that carries you up the stairs all on its own.
Please don’t get me wrong – I am NOT condemning veganism. The world today definitely needs us to reduce our consumption of animal products (and fast!) to reduce the GHG emissions that’s contributing to global warming (among other problems), just as we must also retire fossil fuels and implement renewable energy sources for general consumption. While the latter is the responsibility of world governments, the former, however, is in each of our hands and mindsets, and therefore, in many ways, more powerful in its impact.
If you swapped your weekly meat consumption entirely (or even partially) with plant-based meats, kudos to you, you amazing, amazing human!!! But after that initial adjustment period, however long it is for you, if you aren’t shifting increasingly more towards lentils, grains, vegetables and other non-processed plant-sourced whole foods, along with the occasional processed plant-meat indulgence thrown in, of course, then maybe you need to re-assess your idea of veganism.
Does this mean I’m going to stop drinking Almond milk or eating Almonds? Absolutely not. But I will be more conscious of how much almonds I consume, and regulate it with other plant-based milks. While it takes 1 gallon of water to produce a single almond, crops like oats and soy need fewer resources to be farmed. Besides, I’m beginning to like oat milk better than almond milk, especially in chai. But even almonds are environmentally cheaper to produce when compared to the amount of water needed to produce a single glass of dairy milk.
So at the end of the day, it’s all about picking the lesser evil, and constantly continuing to pick the lesser of the lesser evil. There is no limit to how much we can do or how far we can go to reduce the burden we place on this planet everyday.
The important thing is to always remember the reason for this worldwide shift to more plant-based eating, and let it lead you into a more sustainable lifestyle that doesn’t just stop with what you put on your plate.