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Veganuary may be expecting its biggest ever uptake this month, and the TV is currently awash with anti-meat programmes (Veganville, Apocalypse Cow), but not everyone is happy that plant-based alternatives are being positioned as a sustainable choice.

In fact, The Farming Forum says that farmers are encouraging consumers to ‘see the bigger picture’ when it comes to the environmental impact of agriculture, according to Richard Boden, member of the forum and project manager at Wye Community Farm.

In a release, he states that eating locally produced meat is more environmentally friendly than consuming vegan substitutes and their raw ingredients, which are sometimes transported across the world, and sets out to advise consumers concerned about what type of foods protect the environment.

As well as advocating buying local, he maintains that livestock play a vital role in an eco-friendly food system. “Cattle and sheep produce natural fertilizer, utilize land on which crops cannot be grown, and turn food not making the grade for human consumption into nutritious meat and milk,” Boden says.

Every time you eschew an animal-based product in favour of something synthetic for the sake of ‘saving an animals life’, you’re creating pollution and waste that won’t go away for 1000’s of years, damaging the earth and making life so much worse for countless animals and people

He also highlights that many alternatives to meat and dairy are not only highly processed but also damaging to the environment. “The production of the raw ingredients involves the destruction of natural ecosystems, the transportation of these ingredients around the planet consumes vast amounts of fuel, and the manufacturing process then consumes yet more fuel and electricity as well as generating a mountain of packaging waste.”

Boden describes the producers behind many meat alternatives as being ‘international investors with little concern for the environment’, citing profit as being their only motive, and accuses ‘animal rights extremists’ and global corporations for pushing an ‘anti-cow agenda for their own interests’.

Questioning the reasoning behind vegan ideology, he stresses that vegan ‘wool’, ‘leather’ and ‘fur’ are actually plastic and that “every time you eschew an animal-based product in favour of something synthetic for the sake of ‘saving an animals life’, you’re creating pollution and waste that won’t go away for 1000’s of years, damaging the earth and making life so much worse for countless animals and people.”

“As consumers we all have a choice; support these global corporations, or support Britain’s farmers who have a vested interest in maintaining a sustainable environment,” he concludes.

Responding to the comments, The Vegan Society’s Dominika Piasecka stresses that while shopping locally and seasonally is important, it pales in comparison to the impact made by consumers changing the types of food they eat and that an ‘off-the-shelf vegan diet is the most sustainable of all diets’.

What is arguably more important than reducing food miles is shortening the food chain, as most emissions occur on the farm during production. Eating lower in the food chain, as eating vegan does, means cutting out the ‘middle animal’ and all the associated emissions

“There are no foods exclusive to vegans,” she expands. “Everyone eats fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, etc, so it is disingenuous to say that issues around produce being shipped from around the world is only a problem for vegans.

“In any case, tomatoes grown in Spain and shipped over may have a lower environmental footprint to tomatoes grown in a heated greenhouse around the corner from your house in an artificial environment and using up more resources.

“The bottom line is that it is a complex picture. But what is arguably more important than reducing food miles is shortening the food chain, as most emissions occur on the farm during production. Eating lower in the food chain, as eating vegan does, means cutting out the ‘middle animal’ and all the associated emissions.”

 

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About the Author

Jane Wolfe

Deputy Editor
Natural Products News deputy editor Jane Wolfe re-joined NPN in 2013 having previously worked for the magazine as a sub and freelance journalist from its Steyning beginnings.

Articles by Jane Wolfe
Jane Wolfe

One Response to Save the planet: eat red meat, advises The Farming Forum

  1. Avatar
    Alan McDonald January 24, 2020 at 8:28 pm #

    It would seem that Dominica Piasecka of the Vegan society is not aware that there are tens of thousands of acres of plastic “greenhouses” in Spain growing tomatoes and other vegetables. Almeira is half-jokingly referred to as “Costa del Polythene”.

    The use of plastics never seems to bother those who are intent on “saving the planet”. Why not? These synthetic manufactured products are extremely damaging to the environment.

    I have no objection to people following whatever diet they choose, but it is sensible to eat locally and eat seasonally. Like her, none of these spokespersons ever appear to have any knowledge of horticulture or agriculture, and have no idea that the “middle animal” normally eats food (grass and other herbage in the case of ruminants in the UK) that humans cannot digest.

    I am an olive grower in Portugal so have no direct financial interest in either meat or tomatoes.

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