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Please become a vegan

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Compassionist
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Please become a vegan

#1 Postby Compassionist » March 2nd, 2008, 7:07 pm

As some of you already know, I changed from being a vegetarian to vegan. The following article by Richard Hawting of the Dundee People and Planet shows why:

Are your meals costing the earth?

As our awareness of climate change grows, so to does the realisation of the impact of every one of our day to day actions. We are frequently reminded to save energy through all sorts of small actions. By reducing our carbon footprint through these small actions, we can all play our part in preventing the apocalyptic scenario that some predict.

Yet one lifestyle choice is not as often mentioned when discussing how we can play a part in averting run away climate change. This lifestyle choice relates to food. The stuff that sustains us every day, the topic of many conversations, TV programmes and social activities could in fact be one of the most damaging effects that we as individuals have on the environment. Buying local, organic, seasonally sourced, even fair-trade food can have less damaging effects on the environment and has enjoyed a growing profile in recent years. However, the biggest impact that we make is not as easy to change. This is of course the consumption of meat and dairy.

A statistic that summarises this is that a vegan driving a 4×4 has a lower greenhouse gas output than a meat eater who rides a bicycle. This is according to research at the University of Chicago, where the relative carbon intensity of a standard vegan diet in comparison to a US-style carnivorous diet. It was found that a meat based diet emits the equivalent of 1.5 tonnes more CO2 than the standard vegan. (1) This might sound difficult to believe at first, and of course the amount of meat consumed and the amount of miles driven vary from person to person. But when the process is broken as to how a piece of meat or dairy arrives on our plates, it becomes clearer why there is such a significant impact.

Land resources, water consumed, the energy used in transporting and refrigerating, chemicals used on animal feed, all add up to a heavily resource intensive way to feed ourselves. Industrialised farming has become highly inefficient and with our ever increasing global population, the question will have to be asked whether the resources used on feeding animals that feed us would be better spent on food that goes to us directly.

Agriculture becomes more damaging in relation to global warming, when all green house gas emissions are taken into account. Livestock generates 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2. Methane is a gas that is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide in contributing to climate change and according to a report carried out by United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, agriculture produces 37 percent of all human-induced methane. (2) Add this to the carbon dioxide produced from the energy used in the other areas of production, it becomes clearer just how damaging it can be.

With land resources, the issue relates to the limit of resources available. Livestock are often being fed food that could be used to feed humans on land that could be used much more efficiently to produce plant based food. With thousands dying each day from hunger related diseases, couldn�t the resources used to feed animals be put to a more urgent use? Another major disaster that has unfolded in Latin America where 70 percent of former forests in the Amazon have been turned over to grazing. (3)

Water use is perhaps the biggest concern. With fresh global water supplies running out, the amount that it takes to produce the meat we eat can explain how this happening. According to research carried out at Cornell University’s Ecology Department it takes 900 litres per kg of wheat, 3,500 litres per kg of digestible chicken flesh and a massive 100,000 litres for 1kg of beef. (4). There are other studies that estimate lower proportions of water. However what appears to be consistent is that amount that it takes to feed an animal far outweighs the amount that it takes to grow crops that we can directly eat.

As with anything, veganism is not flawless. Problems do arise when looking at locally produced sources of protein. The lentils, beans, nuts and seeds that so many rely on cannot be produced in a climate like Britain�s. Many of the meals that vegans enjoy and come to take for granted have had a long way to travel before they make it to our dinner plates. Whilst these are issues of concern, it doesn�t mean that they should be used against the overall sustainability that a vegan diet offers. When compared against the land, water, energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions, the distance that the food has travelled does not seem as damaging as when it is viewed in isolation. Like other ethical lifestyle choices, it is the least worst option.

It may seem daunting at first to give up all animal products. Many of the meals that most people love are meat or dairy based. After a bit of exploration however you can find a wealth of information on recipes, nutrition and other people�s experiences on becoming vegan. In the same way that vegetarianism was once obscure and at the margins of society, it has become a mainstream diet. The same can happen with veganism. If the thought of giving up meat and/or dairy is too big a step to think about, the first practical step is to cut down. Many people do find it hard to give up the things they like overnight and so it can be more of a gradual process.

The environmental argument for a vegan diet is not even the sole reason that many give for changing their eating habits. For many, animal welfare is the utmost concern and for others benefits to one�s health can also be convincing. Whatever the main reason for becoming vegan, it appears as if it will have to become more and more necessary if we are to continue feeding a growing population and hope to stop climate change.

References:
(1) http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2006/ ... upplement3
(2) http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/200 ... index.html
(3) Ibid
(4) R. Goodland & D. Pimentel, ‘Sustainability and Integrity in the Agriculture Sector,’ Ecological Integrity: Integrating Environment, Conservation and Health, D. Pimentel, L. Westra, R. F. Noss (eds), Island Press, 2000 taken from http://www.vegansociety.com/html/environment/water/

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Re: Please become a vegan

#2 Postby clayto » March 3rd, 2008, 5:10 pm

This is a challenging posting. As a 'non-vegan' vegetarian I will be interested to see the response!

Chris
clayto

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Re: Please become a vegan

#3 Postby jaywhat » March 5th, 2008, 7:18 am

Yes.
In a perfect world I ........................
As a 'non-vegan', meat-eating (fish) vegetarian I will be interested to see the response too.

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Re: Please become a vegan ---- and Friends Of The Earth

#4 Postby clayto » March 5th, 2008, 1:48 pm

http://www.activeg.org/news/1705.html

This link should be of interest. It deals with the possibility of Friends Of The Earth supporting vegetarianism / veganism as a contribution to 'saving the planet' from environmental disaster.

Chris
clayto

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Please become a vegan

#5 Postby Emma Woolgatherer » March 7th, 2008, 11:47 am

Compassionist wrote:[quoting Richard Hawting of the Dundee People and Planet] As with anything, veganism is not flawless. Problems do arise when looking at locally produced sources of protein. The lentils, beans, nuts and seeds that so many rely on cannot be produced in a climate like Britain's.


I've thought a lot about this (having been vegan for the last twenty-three years), and it has been of some concern to me, because I do buy a lot of imported beans, nuts and seeds. However, while it's true that our climate is not (yet!) suitable for growing a lot of those foods, there are some beans, nuts and seeds that do grow here, and probably a lot more that could. For example, between 110,000 and 170,000 hectares of land is used for growing field beans in this country. At a yield of 3.75 tonnes per hectare, that's around 400,000 to 600,000 tonnes of beans a year. And what happens to them? They're fed to livestock. Some of them are exported to Middle Eastern countries for human consumption (UK Agriculture). I did buy a packet from a health food shop in Putney in around 1993, and they were perfectly good to eat, but I've not seen them for sale since.

If the humble field bean is too boring, there are lots of other bean varieties that can grow here, with names like District Nurse, Lazy Housewife, Blauhilde, Old Homestead, Bird's Egg, Horsehead and Barlotta Lingua di Fuoco. There's even a variety of soya bean specially bread for the British climate, called Ustie (Beans for Drying, P.M. Lloyd). One day, I'll get around to growing some in my garden. Meanwhile, I can buy yellow peas (aka white peas), green peas (blue peas) and marrowfat peas, all of which are grown in the UK.

Hazelnuts grow in this country, of course, and yet apparently the Kentish cobnut industry is under threat — or at least it was in 2002 (BBC News 25 October 2002). With the growing interest in buying local, seasonal food, there ought to be an opportunity to give the industry a boost. Of course, there are sweet chestnuts, too. And acorns are edible if you leach the tannins out. And beech nuts are supposed to be delicious. My niece has a walnut tree in her garden, and that seems to be thriving. And I've heard of people having success with almonds on a south-facing wall. And apparently, several varieties of pine nut can be grown successful in the UK (Vegans Grow Nuts!).

Though most sunflower seeds are imported, sunflowers are grown for their seeds in the UK, though the seeds are mainly used for feeding birds (e.g. Vine House Farm). Lupins are grown here for livestock feed, and they can be suitable for human consumption, too (although not for people with peanut allergies). And even rapeseed meal (the ground up seeds after the oil is extracted) may have potential for human consumption, though I'm not holding my breath on that one, because apparently it's not considered palatable even for pigs. However, there's also hemp, of course, a wonderfully nutritious and tasty little seed, which grows easily in this country, if you can get a Home Office licence to do so.

So while I do understand the point that Richard Hawting is making, what he says is not strictly accurate. Not that I think we need to be self-sufficient in food crops, but it would be good if we made more sustainable use of the limited land that we've got.

Emma

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Re: Please become a vegan

#6 Postby gregory » March 8th, 2008, 5:22 pm

Some very good posts here.

Hazelnuts grow in Britain too but need two dry summers to become good nuts - you may wish to check my facts - so they do tend to be Turkish ones in the shops.

Yes I wasn't sure if rape-seed oil would be palatable but hopefully something else can come in its place.

I was at an International Women's Day event today and maybe a vegan or a vegetarian workshop leader may like to offer her services for next year. It isn't that IWD food isn't reasonably ethical but in one workshop which was on the five a day regime did contain lots of fruits from abroad - delicious yes but you know. Also the humble potato was not counted as a five a day but it does contain vitamin C and the Irish did manage to live on them. Admittedly they probably weren't as healthy as they could be and their brains not getting enough of what it needs or they would have diversified but I wouldn't want to dis the potato too much either.

One thing about buying food from abroad of course is that maybe some people do benefit from the trade. The problem is not an easy solve its like female genital mutilation trying to stop it affects the whole community within that custom.

Lovely posts though looks like Humanist Vegan/Vegetarian site has come of age.
There'll be blue birds over
The white cliffs of Dover

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Re: Please become a vegan

#7 Postby Nick » March 9th, 2008, 1:01 am

Britain has not been self sufficient in food since the 1870's. Which foreign growers would you like to impoverish, or alternatively, which Britons would you recommend for rickets?

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Re: Please become a vegan

#8 Postby Emma Woolgatherer » March 10th, 2008, 1:44 pm

Nick wrote:Britain has not been self sufficient in food since the 1870's. Which foreign growers would you like to impoverish, or alternatively, which Britons would you recommend for rickets?


To whom are those questions addressed? If me, I did say, "Not that I think we need to be self-sufficient in food crops ..." I could have added, "Not that I think we should or could be self-sufficient ..."

But I'm not sure I understand the questions anyway. If large numbers of people stopped eating meat, dairy and eggs, and replaced those foods with soya and other plant protein foods that are currently imported, then it could be the UK farmers who'd be impoverished, and foreign growers who'd benefit. It might make sense, then, to change land use in the UK in such a way that we grow at least some of our own protein foods. Not that I think it's likely that large numbers of people will become vegan, and I'm not proselytising for veganism. I would, however, encourage people to eat less meat, dairy and eggs, which might have the same consequences for land use.

And why would rickets be a consequence of veganism + food self-sufficiency, if that's what you were implying? I can see why you might think it would be a consequence of widespread veganism — though it's not a necessary consequence. But what difference would the self-sufficiency make? The UK gets enough sunshine to provide sufficient Vitamin D to stave of rickets. At least, it does for those of us who can get outside for twenty minutes a day and who don't wear burkas. And, if necessary, there are supplements and fortified foods containing Vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol, which is synthesised from ergot mould, which could come from grain grown in this country. What might we import that would do the job better?

But sorry if I've misunderstood.

Emma

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Re: Please become a vegan

#9 Postby Nick » March 11th, 2008, 1:46 pm

Apology absolutely not needed. It merely shows I haven't made myself understood, though I didn't use many words to explain my points, did I? There is actually a serious point underneath it all, and you have raised some others, so I will respond further, but not till later.

One point I can clear up now. I should have used (say) scurvy rather than rickets because (as you point out) rickets is not caused (primarily?) by dietary deficiency. All I can plead is the hour at which the post was written, and my (ahem!) relaxed view of the world at such an hour after a Saturday night's activities :D

Compassionist
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Re: Please become a vegan

#10 Postby Compassionist » March 12th, 2008, 10:42 am

Emma W wrote:
Compassionist wrote:[quoting Richard Hawting of the Dundee People and Planet] As with anything, veganism is not flawless. Problems do arise when looking at locally produced sources of protein. The lentils, beans, nuts and seeds that so many rely on cannot be produced in a climate like Britain's.


I've thought a lot about this (having been vegan for the last twenty-three years), and it has been of some concern to me, because I do buy a lot of imported beans, nuts and seeds. However, while it's true that our climate is not (yet!) suitable for growing a lot of those foods, there are some beans, nuts and seeds that do grow here, and probably a lot more that could. For example, between 110,000 and 170,000 hectares of land is used for growing field beans in this country. At a yield of 3.75 tonnes per hectare, that's around 400,000 to 600,000 tonnes of beans a year. And what happens to them? They're fed to livestock. Some of them are exported to Middle Eastern countries for human consumption (UK Agriculture). I did buy a packet from a health food shop in Putney in around 1993, and they were perfectly good to eat, but I've not seen them for sale since.

If the humble field bean is too boring, there are lots of other bean varieties that can grow here, with names like District Nurse, Lazy Housewife, Blauhilde, Old Homestead, Bird's Egg, Horsehead and Barlotta Lingua di Fuoco. There's even a variety of soya bean specially bread for the British climate, called Ustie (Beans for Drying, P.M. Lloyd). One day, I'll get around to growing some in my garden. Meanwhile, I can buy yellow peas (aka white peas), green peas (blue peas) and marrowfat peas, all of which are grown in the UK.

Hazelnuts grow in this country, of course, and yet apparently the Kentish cobnut industry is under threat — or at least it was in 2002 (BBC News 25 October 2002). With the growing interest in buying local, seasonal food, there ought to be an opportunity to give the industry a boost. Of course, there are sweet chestnuts, too. And acorns are edible if you leach the tannins out. And beech nuts are supposed to be delicious. My niece has a walnut tree in her garden, and that seems to be thriving. And I've heard of people having success with almonds on a south-facing wall. And apparently, several varieties of pine nut can be grown successful in the UK (Vegans Grow Nuts!).

Though most sunflower seeds are imported, sunflowers are grown for their seeds in the UK, though the seeds are mainly used for feeding birds (e.g. Vine House Farm). Lupins are grown here for livestock feed, and they can be suitable for human consumption, too (although not for people with peanut allergies). And even rapeseed meal (the ground up seeds after the oil is extracted) may have potential for human consumption, though I'm not holding my breath on that one, because apparently it's not considered palatable even for pigs. However, there's also hemp, of course, a wonderfully nutritious and tasty little seed, which grows easily in this country, if you can get a Home Office licence to do so.

So while I do understand the point that Richard Hawting is making, what he says is not strictly accurate. Not that I think we need to be self-sufficient in food crops, but it would be good if we made more sustainable use of the limited land that we've got.

Emma


I am most impressed that you have been a vegan for so long. I have just become a vegan and have been finding it rather difficult. Any tips?

It should be taken into account that all of these can be shipped as dry goods, which means that they can be transported by waterways from far-away places without refrigeration or vacuuming, since they don’t spoil in a week or so.

Thus importing e.g. lentils requires less of energy than an equal amount of meat or dairy products, which need to be kept in cold while transporting.

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Re: Please become a vegan

#11 Postby Emma Woolgatherer » March 12th, 2008, 1:13 pm

Compassionist wrote:I am most impressed that you have been a vegan for so long. I have just become a vegan and have been finding it rather difficult. Any tips?

Well, what is it exactly that you find difficult? Are you missing certain foods? Are you finding your diet bland and repetitive? Are you worried that you're not meeting your nutritional needs? Are you losing weight rapidly?! Image What sort of meals are you eating now? I'd be happy to help in any way I can. It's rather nice to be an old hand at something ...

Compassionist wrote:It should be taken into account that all of these can be shipped as dry goods, which means that they can be transported by waterways from far-away places without refrigeration or vacuuming, since they don’t spoil in a week or so. Thus importing e.g. lentils requires less of energy than an equal amount of meat or dairy products, which need to be kept in cold while transporting.

Absolutely. But I still think it's worth looking at what we might produce nearer to home if demand for plant protein foods increased and demand for animal foods decreased. For social and economic reasons, as much as anything.

Emma

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Nick
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Re: Please become a vegan

#12 Postby Nick » March 12th, 2008, 4:54 pm

Emma W wrote:
Nick wrote:Britain has not been self sufficient in food since the 1870's. Which foreign growers would you like to impoverish, or alternatively, which Britons would you recommend for rickets?


To whom are those questions addressed? If me, I did say, "Not that I think we need to be self-sufficient in food crops ..." I could have added, "Not that I think we should or could be self-sufficient ..."


Aimed at no-one in particular, Emma, just a short response to the subject under discussion. It's brevity was always going to leave questions unanswered.

But I'm not sure I understand the questions anyway. If large numbers of people stopped eating meat, dairy and eggs, and replaced those foods with soya and other plant protein foods that are currently imported, then it could be the UK farmers who'd be impoverished, and foreign growers who'd benefit.


I was principally addressing the idea that we should be self-sufficient in food. Not only has it been many years since that was true, but it also flies in the face of Adam Smith's division of labour, thus reducing everyone's well-being, besides denying us a substantial chunk of the foods you veggies don't seem to be able to get enough of, :D fresh fruit and vegetables, even in winter.

Interestingly, we are nowadays much more interested in including what economists refer to as externalities in quantifying what constitutes the ideal solution. Adam Smith didn't worry about carbon footprints and global warming, and I think he would be somewhat surprised by human rights and animal welo
fare too.

It might make sense, then, to change land use in the UK in such a way that we grow at least some of our own protein foods. Not that I think it's likely that large numbers of people will become vegan, and I'm not proselytising for veganism. I would, however, encourage people to eat less meat, dairy and eggs, which might have the same consequences for land use.

It may well make sense to reduce ones intake of meat, eggs and dairy products, purely for health reasons. (Not that they are intrinsically bad for you, but the proportions in which such foods are consumed may not be the most healthy.) As for land use, we have already discussed this matter elsewhere, but in summary, there are many areas which are suitable for grazing, which could not be used for arable production. Furthermore, we have so far been spectacularly unsuccessful in managing a viable agricultural sector, with massive subsidies, set-aside and rural hardship. How to address such problems deserves a thread of its own.

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Re: Please become a vegan

#13 Postby Emma Woolgatherer » March 13th, 2008, 10:06 am

Nick wrote:I was principally addressing the idea that we should be self-sufficient in food.

Ah, I see. Fair enough. I do agree with you on that. I was merely concerned with an over-reliance on imported plant-protein food.

Nick wrote:... besides denying us a substantial chunk of the foods you veggies don't seem to be able to get enough of, :D fresh fruit and vegetables, even in winter.

Getting fresh veggies in winter isn't a problem. It's the spring and early summer where you get a "hungry gap" — April, May and June. That's when my veggie box tends to have the most imported produce. Right now it's nearly all from the UK. (And no, it's not all root vegetables.) Of course, we can produce fruit and vegetables all year round in the UK, in heated greenhouses or polytunnels, or with hydroponics. But then we use more energy. Unless perhaps the greenhouses and polytunnels are heated by solar or geothermal energy ... Ah, well, anyway, there's a lot of life-cycle analysis to do there. Image

Nick wrote:It may well make sense to reduce ones intake of meat, eggs and dairy products, purely for health reasons. (Not that they are intrinsically bad for you, but the proportions in which such foods are consumed may not be the most healthy.)

I still think the reasons that Compassionist gives are more ... pressing. Eating less in the way of animal products — even if you are not currently eating unhealthily large amounts — means reducing energy consumption, land use, water use, pesticide use. It's a particularly good way of reducing the old carbon footprint.

Nick wrote:As for land use, we have already discussed this matter elsewhere, but in summary, there are many areas which are suitable for grazing, which could not be used for arable production.

Not arable production, true. But many grazing areas that are not suitable for arable are suitable for growing trees, including, in some cases, fruit trees and nut trees.

Still, as I said, I'm not proselytising for complete veganism. If people reduced their consumption of meat, dairy and eggs to the extent that only land that is not suitable for growing crops is used for grazing, then that would be a Good Thing, in my view.

Nick wrote:Furthermore, we have so far been spectacularly unsuccessful in managing a viable agricultural sector, with massive subsidies, set-aside and rural hardship. How to address such problems deserves a thread of its own.

Well, yes, I suppose it does. I feel exhausted just thinking about it!

Emma

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Re: Please become a vegan

#14 Postby Nick » March 13th, 2008, 10:29 am

Hi Emma!

I stand corrected about the 'hungry gap' which, on reflection makes sense. As for growing fruit trees, Kent has seen a dramatic reduction in the number of orchards and (more seriously :D ) hop fields over the past few decades.

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Re: Please become a vegan

#15 Postby Alan C. » March 13th, 2008, 6:49 pm

Emma
Not arable production, true. But many grazing areas that are not suitable for arable are suitable for growing trees, including, in some cases, fruit trees and nut trees.
Sorry Emma, but not up here.
I've explained this before, but it was prior to you joining us.
The parkland that supports 325,000 sheep and I don't know how many rabbits, is absolutely no good for anything else, the only possible thing that could be done would be to remove all the heather (no small task) and plant blueberries, nothing else would grow on the hills here which are peat and very, very stony.
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

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Re: Please become a vegan

#16 Postby Emma Woolgatherer » March 13th, 2008, 7:21 pm

Alan C. wrote:The parkland that supports 325,000 sheep and I don't know how many rabbits, is absolutely no good for anything else, the only possible thing that could be done would be to remove all the heather (no small task) and plant blueberries, nothing else would grow on the hills here which are peat and very, very stony.

I said "many" grazing areas were suitable for growing trees, not "all". I'm aware that some habitats benefit from grazing. (I'm also aware that some habitats suffer from overgrazing — particularly the English uplands.) I'm not anticipating or advocating pure veganism for all anyway, so I'm not suggesting that all grazing animals should or could be done away with. I'd be more than happy if demand for meat dropped significantly, and meat-eaters were more willing to eat mutton and rabbit, and intensive, grain-fed livestock rearing stopped altogether. But I'm not holding my breath on that one, either.

Mind you, I do like the idea of the blueberries. Image

Emma

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Re: Please become a vegan

#17 Postby Alan C. » March 13th, 2008, 10:32 pm

Emma
Mind you, I do like the idea of the blueberries.
I grow a few, they like the acid soil and can get a hold even in the stoniest ground, I've seen them virtually growing out of boulders up on the hills, (Yes they would grow wild here) but of course the sheep eat them (not just the berries but the whole shrub) so you can't have both.
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

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Re: Please become a vegan

#18 Postby Rami » August 13th, 2008, 9:10 am

I don't think it should be an all-or-nothing kind of deal. It is unlikely that the entire world will convert to veganism any time soon. So I think the discussion on whether or not veganism will work on a global scale is just moot. It's not gonna happen. But, I think, every little bit helps. Every person can reduce their use of animal products, even if they do not completely eliminate them. Less animal products, less animal suffering, less stress on the environment, better overall health. So, please do not give up on veganism simply because it will not or cannot be practiced on a global scale.

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Re: Please become a vegan

#19 Postby Nick » August 14th, 2008, 11:00 am

Just a brief comment, Rami, and not a conclusive one at that. You mentioned "less stress on the environment". I don't think that veganism is much of a direct influence on the environment. Sorry I can't remember where, but I heard recently that grazing offers much better biodiversity and ecological benefits than fields of crops. Of course that is not a one way street. Destroying rain-forest for grazing would be one example. For an environmentally sustainable world we need to solve the economic and political issues in particularly vulnerable areas. That's a world away from veganism.

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Re: Please become a vegan

#20 Postby Alan C. » August 14th, 2008, 9:56 pm

Rami
Every person can reduce their use of animal products, even if they do not completely eliminate them.
Rami, if you read this whole thread (and others on this forum) You will see that some people don't have a choice,
Here in large parts (not all) of Shetland, meat is all that can be grown, would you see the people here starve? Or would you have them import food from the other side of the world? When half of the other side of the world is starving?
Vegetarianism is a great concept, but vegetarians don't seem to put much thought into the consequence of global vegetarianism.

You live in the US where vast amounts of grain, cereal, and vegetables can be produced, not everybody is so lucky.
Please give a little thought about peoples circumstances before criticizing their dietry habits.
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.


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