Even prior to this fairly nonsensical vegan chapter of my life, environmental consideration has always indirectly dictated a large majority of my actions. I take short showers, turn lights off, turn taps off (both mine and others’), recycle, and I avoid driving when I can. Deep down I’ve long held the reasonably smug self-evaluation of silent greenie, doing his bit when most others don’t bother. Unfortunately - just like the bloke in Cowspiracy - it wasn’t until I researched the food industry that I realised how much more I could/should be doing.
It’s struck me just how much energy and resources go into producing the smallest disposable products, both edible and otherwise. Investigating various livestock-based agribusinesses has really rammed this home for me. The ecological footprints of these industries permeate well beyond the obvious and well-touted methane and nitrous oxide emissions from cows. In other words, it ain’t just about the farts. For example, off the top of my head, animal farming involves:
- initial deforestation of native bush for pastural conversion
- environmental costs of manufacturing/transportation/construction resources for farm equipment and construction
- ongoing maintenance of equipment (electricity, petrol, cleaning)
- feed for livestock. Not just buying it, but growing, harvesting, processing, transporting and distributing it. Then potentially wasting it with poor delivery (i.e. in free-range circumstances).
- disposal of garbage (transportation, landfill)
I didn’t think about any of this stuff before becoming vegan. Obviously I knew animal farming had a pretty detrimental impact on the environment but reconciled it as fairly necessary collateral from essential industries. The difference now is born upon the realisation that this just isn’t true. They are simply not essential at all. Therein lies the essence of why I think that being vegan is important, and will make a difference.
“BUT YOU’RE JUST ONE PERSON. IT’S STILL GOING TO GO ON WITHOUT YOU”.
Ugh. I am so sick of hearing this. I’m also truly frightened by how many mouths I have heard this out of. What the fuck even is that. Having that attitude isn’t playing devil’s advocate, it’s just being a dick. I don’t get how anyone can be that defeatist. Not only defeatist, but bloody rude! I think ignorance is largely responsible; ignorance of the environmental impact of animal industries, and ignorance of the significant decision that being vegan is.
Please note that I don’t say this to be a martyr, because I don’t call veganism a sacrifice of any capacity - with my current consideration of animal products it doesn’t make sense to be bitter about not having something I shouldn’t reeeeally have had in the first place. But the overwhelming pessimism dripping from these kinds of comments is what’s really heartbreaking.
Cynicism sadly seems to prevail in today's world, advocacy that basically the Earth is already fucked and there’s nothing anyone can do to fix the big problems. You can pretty much use that attitude to justify any sin. The irony is frightening as the people who think this way are literally the only obstacle preventing real change from happening.
Anyway, I’ve sidetracked in quite a ranty way. Bottom line though, I hate waste.
Such hatred has led to another proper deviation from regular vegans. If stuff is going to end up in the bin, I eat it. I’m lucky enough to not be allergic to anything (insert smug emoji-face here), so it doesn’t make sense not to eat food if it’s just going to become garbage. I’m aware this opens up a large loophole, but being aware of it means I know to exercise discipline. I’m not going to go creating or looking for excess food.
Thankfully most food isn’t immediately perishable, and can be refrigerated for someone else at some other time - hence still unavailable to me. If I’m at a restaurant though, and I’ve offered it to everyone else, and then offered it again, and the waiter is on his way over to clear up… imma get my eat on. It’ll mean I have to eat less later, and it just doesn’t make sense to go in the bin. I obviously don’t like the processes involved in animal industries, but I simply can’t comprehend going through these processes only for the food to never be eaten.
I’ve noticed my approach to waste is one of the more prohibitive aspects of my personality. Even at work in my cafe, I hate wasting coffee. Despite often being necessary, my brain can’t reconcile the fact that some Central American farmer has tended the plant for at least 3 years, harvested the coffee, processed it, transported it across the world where it’s been roasted and then transported to my shop, only to go in the bin. Brain can’t compute. Grrr.
Food I get given has further re-classified my veganism as a result. The other day for example, I ate a sourdough croissant - yep, sourdough croissant - that my mate bought from out of town. I knew there was butter in it, but he got it especially for me, and it was a gastro experience I hadn’t ever had before. Pretty sure Mum used chicken stock in a vegetarian curry she made me this week and of course I ate that too. Both were bloody delicious, but I actually didn’t relish the non-vegan indulgence aspects of either quite as much as I expected to. Yes it's a gaping diet loophole, but it’s not like I’m going around asking other people to buy me non-vegan food to ‘obligate’ me into eating it. I’ll admit my brain works in funny ways, but that would be taking counterintuitive to a pretty stupid level.
However, when someone has bought or made some food specifically for me, I’m going to be polite and eat it, even if that means minor contraventions of my vegan lifestyle. I consider minor to be small amounts of dairy, or a stray egg for example.
The good thing is anyone who might buy me food probably knows I’m vegan anyway, so it’s unlikely I’ll find myself with a steak in front of me that I feel obligated to eat… although at my hungriest I may still find myself hoping.