In recent years, a plant-based lifestyle has become increasingly more prominent in European and Western societies. The number of restaurants and food stalls that now offer at least a Vegan option has risen exponentially over the last five years, and the number of average online searches for Vegan restaurants in any given month in the United Kingdom has risen from around 60,000 in 2017, to around 200,000 in 2020.
Clearly, the Vegan movement is beginning to gain some serious traction. However, the very prominent and popular rebuttals towards the Vegan movement that we will attempt to deconstruct in this article has served to complicate how the movement is perceived within the media and public spheres.
Indeed, the sometimes misleading information and arguments offered by proponents of the animal agriculture industry have tended to convince cultures and societies that Veganism is a ‘radical’ and ‘aggressive’ movement, when this could not be further from the truth.
This short article will examine some of these popular arguments put forwards by the more vocal opponents to Veganism as a movement and lifestyle, and assess whether they are valid critiques of a plant-based diet, or whether they represent misinformation, designed to disguise the more insidious and undiscovered side to the animal agriculture industry.
Its purpose is not to impose a Vegan diet onto our readers, rather, it is to help us think critically about our consumption of animal products, and to really understand the choices we are making on a daily basis.
The idea of personal choice is of course a pertinent one in any conversation regarding Veganism and the consumption of animal products. Any person should feel as though they can express themselves in any way they feel they are able to in any social setting.
What complicates this argument however, is the fact that in our personal choice to consume animal products, and as an extension to endorse the animal agriculture industry at large, necessitates the existence of a victim.
Any animal or animal product that we consume has to have been created and produced with the involvement of a dissenting, sentient, non-human animal. No animal volunteers itself for slaughter, just as no cow readily involves itself in forced impregnation, so that it is able to produce milk throughout the year, for human consumption.
It is important to understand that our personal choice in choosing to consume animal products, necessarily removes any personal choice from the animals we choose to consume.
Furthermore, our justification of our consumption of animal products as a ‘personal choice’ suggests that any action we commit to throughout our lives is inherently moral, so long as it was one that was motivated by our own ‘personal choice’.
For example, would a shoplifter’s decision to heist a packet of crisps be a moral one, if it was one that they intentionally chose to commit to? Many of us would probably agree that, no, this is not a moral action, because in spite of the shoplifter’s explanation that it was their personal choice to steal, it involves a victim, the shopkeeper.
The same can be said for our consumption of animal products; we may be able to say that it is down to the individual whether or not they choose to consume animals, but this does not inherently make their choice a moral one, as it necessitates the exploitation of non-human animals.
Most of the questions surrounding a Vegan diet and lifestyle are centred around its nutritional value, and whether we are able to achieve the same level of nourishment from a Vegan diet, as we are from a non-Vegan diet.
The American Dietetic Association, a body which represents the largest assembly of diet and nutrition professionals in the United States, and is formed of over 100,000 certified practitioners, has categorically stated that ‘a Vegan diet is healthy, safe, and nutritionally adequate for all stages of life, including pregnancy, lactation, and infancy’. This has been supported also by the British Dietetic Association, as well as the NHS.
There is also extensive research which draws some correlation between our sometimes excessive consumption of animal products to some of our leading diseases and illnesses, including heart disease and certain forms of cancer, with an investigation carried out by Narges Grau and Noushin Mohammadifard suggesting ‘significant associations between red meat intake and higher risks of ismchaemic heart disease and cardiovascular disease mortality rate’.
This is always a popular argument in debates around Veganism, as it is one which attempts to justify our consumption of animals by suggesting that, historically, we always have done. We have been able to evolve to the pinnacle of the animal kingdom, and achieve the societal, technological, and medicinal advancements we have, as a result of our consumption of meat.
We have always eaten meat, so why should we stop?
Our rebuttal to this point is centred around necessity – a Lion, residing on the plains of the Serengeti in northern Tanzania, is an obligate carnivore, and therefore its only method of survival is to hunt, and subsequently consume, animal flesh. Humans, in the past, have only been able to obtain the nourishment necessary to survive from animals products, therefore we too had to consume animals to survive.
However, in Europe and large parts of the wider modern world, it is no longer required that we consume animal products to survive – plant-based alternatives offer the same level of nutritional value as meat products; the prominence of the Vegan movement has encouraged restaurants and food manufacturers to produce a wider variety of Vegan alternatives, meaning that there are now many more plant-based options; and the larger number of options we are now able to select from has brought the price of Vegan products down to a more reasonable level, meaning that it is now more affordable in most degrees of socio-economic stability.
Veganism is now more accessible than ever, and it is hoped that, with the help of this article, we have been able to illuminate some of popular misconceptions surrounding a plant-based lifestyle, and offer more accurate interpretation of the differences between animal- and plant-based products.
For more content on Veganism, check out another one of our articles here!
- Grau, Narges, Mohammadifard, Noushin, Hassennejhad, Razieh, Haghighatdoost, Fahimeh, Sadeghi, Masoumeh, Talaei, Mohammad, Sajjadi, Firoozeh, Mavrommatis, Yiannis, and Sarrafzadegan, Nizal, ‘Red and Processed Meat Consumption and Risk of Incident Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality: Isfahan Cohort Study’, in International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, Vol. 73, No. 4 (2021), 503-512, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/epub/10.1080/09637486.2021.1993797?needAccess=true.