The headline read: “The Moral Dilemma Facing Vegans”. What moral dilemma would that be, I wondered? I have no moral dilemma about being a Vegan, and no other Vegan I know does, either. However, it appears that ex-professor of agribusiness, Dr Jacqueline Rowarth, and Dr Graeme Coles, a nutrition scientist who leans heavily on the side of meat-eating (according to a quick Google search) know Vegans better than Vegans know themselves. Interestingly, Dr Jacqueline, friend of everything and everyone involved in animal-meat production, has been a vegetarian for forty years. Not sure what to make of that, but it sure ain’t about the ethics of not exploiting nor harming animals. Lucky day for us, though, they kindly shared their extensive knowledge about Vegans in the NZ Herald https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12302081
Like any anti-vegan opinion piece or commentary, it was rather light on full facts. But throw in a couple of Doctors backing up what Bob down at the local boozer says, and ……well, Bob’s your uncle. Sprinkle it with a light smattering of surface-science for a nice touch of credibility, and case closed for those who have just read why they don’t need to change how they do things in order to mitigate climate change. Knew those bloody Vegans were wrong, eh? Look, here’s Dr Jacqueline and Dr Graeme saying so.
Dr Graeme proceeds to tell us all that is nutritionally inferior about plant foods, compared to animal food-products. His argument looks good. He quotes numbers and percentages and grams and components, which are just the thing for making an opinion look like the real deal. And who’s ever going to bother fact-checking that lot? No mention of the puzzling fact, though, that in spite of eating nutritionally inferior plant foods, Vegans aren’t the highest percentage of people filling up the hospital beds with chronic illnesses. Meat-eaters claim that distinction, and physicians are acknowledging it with recent recommendations to include plant-based meals in hospitals. Naturally, there was an outrage about that from carnists and farmers and Doctors of the meat industry – I mean Doctors of nutrition science and agribusiness.
Then the good Dr Graeme goes on to infer that there is more food wastage involved with a vegan diet. And once again he makes it look good with lots of surface-science and fluffy facts. The verbal diarrhoea about this is truly amazing to behold, and makes the eating of plants look downright irresponsible. By now, the climate change deniers and carnists are creaming themselves in ecstasy. There is not one single mention of how this compares to food wastage around the production of animals for food, and how much food animals have to consume before they can be eaten. Which sounds a lot like food wastage to me. But why would he do that? This piece is all about discrediting Vegans, our philosophy, and our facts about the far-reaching benefits of a plant-based diet.
Apparently, soaking and cooking beans before we eat them is bad. too. It produces greenhouse gases over and above the nitrous oxides excreted afterwards. Dr Graeme doesn’t specify how much we naughty Vegans contribute to greenhouse gases in this way, but I’m taking a wild stab that the 80% of the world’s soybeans which are fed to animals also have to be soaked and cooked beforehand as well. Now, maybe we don’t feed farm animals here in New Zealand the same amount of soybeans as overseas operations do, but we still do have some intensive farming. Usually, the meat industry and their loyal lieutenants practise a bit of sleight of hand around New Zealand’s emissions from animal agriculture, by separating us from countries with large numbers of intensive farms. We don’t stand alone in the world, though. We may be the last outpost at the bottom of it, but we trade like everyone else. Many food imports with animal ingredients in them will come from animals in intensive farming operations, which have been fed soybeans.
Dr Graeme also reckons that the amount that Vegans poo is a problem. “The extra nitrous oxides from a vegan’s diet are equivalent to the emissions associated with two return journeys annually from New Zealand to London”, he tells us. I’m guessing he means journeys by air. How the hell did he measure how much poo a Vegan does? Is he really telling us that every Vegan’s poo is equivalent to the bad emissions of two annual return trips between New Zealand and London? Unlike the saturation of numbers and percentages and grams and components about plant foods, he doesn’t offer a dicky-bird of evidence for this one. Nor does reveal how many return trips it would be for a meat-eater, between their own poo and that of the animals they eat, as a comparison. When a Doctor of the meat industry comes up with shit like this (pun intended), we know that there are getting fewer and fewer straws for them to clutch at. This particularly desperate attempt almost made my day 😊
NB: Nitrous oxide is only 6% of the total greenhouse gases, so perhaps Dr Graeme would be better off worrying more about CO2.
Header pic by Amy Reed.