Veganism is becoming more mainstream. The latest statistics from the Vegan Society state that the number of Vegans in the U.K. has risen from 150,000 in 2006 to over 540,000 just 10 years later. It has also been stated that moving towards a plant-based diet cuts land-use by 76% in comparison to meat diets. It would seem that Veganism promotes an all-round win for the planet, but how can we take that one step further?
Living as a strict vegan for some years, I found myself wrapped in an all pervading definition of what I thought it was to live morally and to be kind to the planet. From personal experience, I find the vegan label an easy way to avoid responsibility for other choices that may not, in reality, be so environmental friendly. For example, I’ve never had a problem switching to dairy-free foods though consideration of deforestation for soya milk was not on my agenda. I would continue to buy meat substitutes with high Carbon Footprints and fob it off as acceptable, being ‘better than eating meat’. To be fair, it probably is. However, this does not take away from the harm my actions cause that could be avoided if I were to buy more locally produced and less processed foods.
One of my major behaviour changes was to avoid the dreaded Tetrapack: packaging that consumes high amounts of energy to create and to recycle. Most vegan milk substitutes are packaged in Tetrapack – extremely non-environmentally friendly containers in the world. My plastic packaging consumptions is still high … mainly for goods such as salad leaves and spinach. I’m still not sure what to do about that.
I still believe that to alleviate or at least avoid contributing to the suffering of other beings is an important aspect of our personal decisions and that compassion should be practiced wherever possible, after all, animals have the same physical components as us that enable them to feel pain. However, I am also understanding as to why people eat meat and, after many conversations, realise that it is mostly habitual. I’ve often heard people say … ‘yeah… but bacon…’, to which I have no adequate response. Really, if the meat is well sourced and you are conscious of your consumption, by all means eat meat.
My suggestion is to begin to be conscious, to consider what you are eating. Cutting down consumption and sourcing responsibly is a major plus. And for the vegans out there, I know that veganism is hugely important and allows people to make positive lifestyle choices but we must be careful not to fall into a game of blame and hypocrisy. Every person has to chose to make the best decisions with themselves according to personal circumstances and their own inner integrity.
It is imperative that we take the time to assess individual responsibility for our choices and even a simple step back, could result in a different kind of view.