Over the past few years veganism has risen in numbers and the debate between which lifestyle is better being a vegan or being a meat eater has also increased. When looking at both side it is clear that each side has their advantages and disadvantages and some do outweigh each other, but with critical analysis I aim to unpack which lifestyle is overall healthier, economically viable and environmentally sustainable and why so many people are so reluctant to go vegan and why so many are so against meat eating.
What is Veganism
Veganism goes as far back as to 500 BC but the word vegan was coined by Donald Watson in 1944 but was meant to mean ‘non-dairy vegetarian’ but it was changed to mean “the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals’. In the 2010’s Veganism began increasing with more vegan shops, restaurants and grocery stores opening around the world.
Veganism is a lifestyle where one does not consume any animal products nor, in some cases, do they use any clothing, accessory or object made from an animal. Not to be confused with being a vegetarian which is not consuming any meat. A vegan does not eat egg, dairy and meat and any other animal derived food. There are three types of vegans, dietary vegans (or strict vegetarians), ethical vegan and environmental vegan. Dietary vegans do not consume any animal products simply for dietary reasons whilst ethical vegan also practices the philosophy behind veganism which is animal are not just commodities and condemns the use and abuse of animals in any way shape or form and environmental vegans are vegans on the basis that being a meat eater has negative effects on the environment, so by being vegan they aim to reduce their carbon footprint. Most vegans are all three ethical, dietary and environmental vegans
What is being a meat eater
Being a meat eater is the term used for people who consume any animal products and use animal- based accessories, it is not excusive to people who only eat meat but the use of animals in anyway in general. Most of the world’s population are meat eaters this is because being a meat eater is more financially sustainable than being a vegan. In recent years meat-eater have begun to be more active in their support for animal rights and only buying free range foods and accessories, but many companies still make profit off the torture of animals (which I will elaborate on later in my research) and they need to be stopped and as a meat-eater is it’s our responsibility to ensure that we are held accountable for the food we consume and only support free range products.
According to Livekindly the demand for vegan food has increased by 140% in 2017 and inflation increased 12% in 2016. While veganism has increased so has the cost of food, this means that the already expensive foods that have nutritional value in the lifestyle will have also increased to high prices which if we are looking at the majority of South Africa who live in poverty is not suitable. Inflation does not only effect vegans but also meat eaters with many South Africans struggling to afford the basics such as vegetables how are they now supposed to afford almond milk or soya.
When doing my research, I noticed that most websites stated that being a vegan was cheaper than being a meat-eater and then I also noticed that most of these websites were from developed countries and are more economically stable than developing countries like South Africa this led me to investigate and I compared the prices of diary milk and almond milk which is vegan. When comparing the price of 1l dairy milk and 1l almond milk, the dairy milk cost R12 while almond cost R46 that is R34 difference, although to some a R34 increase is not that bad for many that a lot of money that can be used elsewhere to better their lives a family could buy almost three litres compared to the one of almond. This can be passed on too many other vegan foods were the non-vegan alternative is much cheaper.
A meat eater spends approximately R2 062 on groceries while a vegan spends R3 250 in a month, there is a difference of R1 188 between the two lifestyles and spending that much more money is just not economically wise for most South African families. The cost of being a vegan is partly the reason why some South Africans are not vegan.
A large reason why most people go vegan is because they are huge supporters of animal rights and do not agree with the way many animals are treated in industrial farms. Many animals are pumped full of dangerous hormones to make them grow faster and interfering with nature’s cycle and thus throwing everything off balance, harming the animals and the consumer. They are also kept indoors all day which is extremely detrimental to the grow and well-being of the animals. The extreme harsh condition of breeding animals has been, especially in recent years, under blast. by going vegan, they are no longer supporting these international companies, but most meat eaters are not aware of this. In the survey I conducted most meat-eaters were not aware of where their meat and other non-vegan food products come from which is very problematic. Not knowing where they food one eats comes from means that we end up supporting business that practise animal cruelty. it is your responsibility as a meat eater to be held accountable for the food that you consume, which is why in recent years many meat eaters have spoken out against animal cruelty and are only buying free-range or pasture free products. Free range according to the Cambridge Dictionary means “relating to or produced by farm animals that are allowed to move around outside and are not kept in cages” which is the product all meat-eaters should be eating.
The reason why many big producers are not producing food is because having free range products does slow down productivity and slow down money income, businesses are too fixated on making money than they are the well-being of animals which needs to be stopped and if vegans and meat-eaters work together they can be.
Some of the environmental effects that meat production has are animal methane, effluent waste, and water and land consumption. Many forests are being destroyed for farming reasons, this is called deforestation. Deforestation means that the biodiversity of that area no longer has a habit resulting in those animals to die and eventually become endangered and if nothing is done they will become extinct. All animals play a role in their respective ecosystems and if they are removed everything is thrown off balance.
To make one pound of beef (453.592g) it takes 1 850 gallons of water (7003.012 l). The average South Africa eats 13,35 kg of meat a year which amounts to 93490 l of water a year. This is a huge amount water used and is extremely bad for the environment, which is why meat-eater need to reduce their meat consumption.
Greenhouse methane gas produced by livestock and is one of the reasons why global warming is such a problem, the gas, like carbon, damages the ozone layer. The faeces of livestock especially cows, give of methane gas. The fact that the gas is affecting the ozone layer just shows how many cows and other livestock there is.
It is than our responsibility as meat-eaters to lessen the amount of meat we eat, because at this rate eating meat is extremely detrimental for the environment and if we don’t do something the earth will suffer and so will we.
Health Effects/ Nutritional Value
It argued by many Vegans that being a vegan is healthier I want to however put this to the test and see if being a vegan is actually healthier or is it being a meat-eater?
Being a vegan if not done correctly can be unhealthy, one has to make sure that the foods they eat give then all the nutritional value since getting a nutritional meal is hard when vegan and to remember that just because some is vegan doesn’t mean it healthy, after all potato chips are vegan. With that said if they diet is followed correctly it can be, according to Katherine Tallmadge a former spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “nutritionally superior to any other way of eating”. Being vegan lessen the risk of ischemic heart disease, they also have lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure, rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Vegans also have an overall lower body mass index, lower cancer rates and lower risk of chronic diseases. Vitamin B12 is found in animal products so not eating animal products make it harder for one to get this vitamin, therefore a vegan either needs to take supplements eat certain soy products and breakfast cereals to avoid a deficiency. Omega-3 fatty acid is found mainly in fish or eggs therefore vegans need to make sure that do get this fatty acid else or else a deficiency could form.
Contrary to popular belief begin vegan does not mean instant weight loss, and it is possible to be an “unhealthy vegan” this is due to the fact that carbohydrates form a stable in a vegan diet and too much like in a meat-eaters diet is very unhealthy.
There are many health risks with being a meat eater, eating processed meats can cause cancer while red meat also increases the risk of cancer. Eating meat also increases ones risk of getting diabetes and heart diseases and even death. Counties that eat less meat have been shown to have higher life expectancy rates. According to a study of over 70,000 people published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, vegetarians were 12 percent less likely to have died during a six-year followup period than their meat-eating peers.
Eating meat does have some benefits. Meat is very high in protein which is why meat eater hardly have protein deficiencies, there is also lots of iron, zinc and selenium. Iron is used to form haemoglobin which transports oxygen around the body, zinc helps tissue formation and metabolism and selenium breaks down the fat and chemicals in the body. Many vitamins are found in animal products such a vitamin A, B and D which are found in eggs and other dairy products and meat
In the survey I conducted I found that most vegans felt that they were living a healthier lifestyle and they were healthier than their non-vegan counter parts.
As mentioned before veganism has risen exponentially over the past few years and one of the contributing factors among others is social media and social influencers. Celebrity vegans included: Serena Williams, Meghan Markle, Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Miley Cyrus, Liam Hemsworth, Brad Pitt and Ellen DeGeneres to name a few with Beyoncé and Jay-Z even going as far as to promise a lucky few fans a lifetime supply of tickets it they go vegan. Because of these celebrities going vegan many of their fans are now wanting to become vegan. Being a vegan is now a trend with many going vegan not as a lifestyle but as a diet and just to “try it out”. Social media has exposed the horrible conditions in which animals are kept which and has swayed many into veganism. Celebrities constantly speak about the benefits of being vegan and this sways the public because we all know how influential celebrities are in the world of social media.
After thorough evaluation I have come to the conclusion that the benefits of veganism outweigh the disadvantages and it would be in everyone’s best interest to go vegan or if not lessen their meat consumption. Because the cost of being a vegan is so high and not affordable for most South Africans the best option is to lessen our meat intake not only to better the environment but our health and to be aware of the type of meat we consume and where it comes from, we should only be eating free range meat. And as a vegan to make sure that you get all the nutrients needed and that be still be mindful of the food you eat because there is a thing as an unhealthy vegan.