Lesley Thomson straps on her body armour as she wades into the vegan debate.
“Sorry, I can’t eat that, I’m a vegan.” “Oh, that looks delicious, but I am a vegetarian.”
Despite the theory that in the animal world carnivores have eyes in the front of their heads, while herbivores have eyes at the side of their heads, thus humans are carnivores, more and more people worldwide appear to be becoming vegan or vegetarian. Or are they just following a fad because it is “the thing to do”?
How many vegans are aware that animal products are used in the making of plastic – your shoes, bottles, shopping bags, make-up?
Ingredients from animals are often used in the manufacture of glue, tyres, metal processing, computers, mobile phones, batteries, TVs and even when producing films for television and the screen if digital cameras are not used.
Many people report that they feel healthier on a non-animal diet, though some studies say that vegan diets may be less healthy, as vitamin B12, necessary for proper cell health, is found mainly in eggs, fish and meat. Vegetarians would obtain this necessary nutrient from eggs, dairy products and honey.
There is some hypocrisy in veganism – like the woman who declares that she is a strict vegan, but wears an uber-fancy leather belt to match the leather handbag. Going organic, as most vegans try to do, often means their vegetables are grown with animal or chicken manure, blood and bone meal, anything to regenerate the soil. “Veganic” is the term for growing produce without using any animal by-product to restore the soil.
To facilitate growing organic fruit and vegetables using animal by-products, there is a move afoot to introduce a “regenerative organic certification”, which is intended to promote animal welfare, social justice and soil health. Growers of vegetables and fruit in the EU already have a certifying body for veganic farmers.
These products may be hard to find in commercial outlets, but can be found if purchased directly from the growers.
Many people believe vegetarian and, especially, vegan eating could radically decrease greenhouse gas output. One study says if the world adopted a vegan diet, the greenhouse gas output would shrink by 75%.
However, going vegan or vegetarian will not save the environment. Over the past decades our soils have been badly depleted, thus the propensity for taking supplements to improve our diets. Eating entirely plant-based foods ignores one of the most powerful tools we have to restore our soils and biodiversity – grazing and browsing animals.
Free-range animals stimulate vegetation, which also creates habitats for other species of mammals and reptiles – including essential propagators, birds and bees – that are necessary for the continuation of the planet’s bio-diversity.
I believe instead of eating industrially produced soya, maize, beans and grains for the sake of the environment, we should be encouraging ethical, sustainable meat and dairy production.
*By Lesley Thomson – africatalked.co.za
Main picture, top: Nadine Primeau on Unsplash