Can Omnivores be Environmentalists?

vegan

Words can’t describe how much I dislike this image. If you share this post based on this picture alone, please be aware that you are totally ignoring the intent of this post.*

Like most young city girls and most people from the west coast, I know a lot of vegans. I also follow a lot of left-wing media outlets on Facebook and Twitter. With those two combined, I see a lot of posts about veganism come up on my feeds. Now, I’m not a vegan, but I find most of these really interesting. I’m really concerned about the environment and even though I still eat meat, eggs, and dairy, they help me make better choices. Plus, my vegan friends tend to share some really great recipes and gardening tips.

That being said, occasionally I see something I’m less keen on. The photo above is one of those things. A number of friends shared it and I started to make some comments, but then stopped myself. I decided that the whole issue was something I’d rather blog about. I hope none of those friends takes offense to this post (if any of them read it). I’m not trying to attack anyone for his/her views on this; I just want to share my own take on the issue.

Basically, I find images and statements like this really unhelpful. I know that it must be hard to be vegan because people get pretty judgmental about it, as if someone cutting animal products out of his/her diet is some kind of personal affront. Still, two wrongs don’t make a right and these statements are judgmental in the other direction. The people who make them don’t know why various people choose to be omnivores. Yes, a lot of people simply refuse to give up meat, but there are a lot of other reasons behind the decision to continue eating meat. Personally, I have a very serious legume allergy that makes eating meat alternatives very challenging, and I feel that most that are available to me aren’t all that environmentally friendly ¬– most have to get shipped halfway around the world to get here and many take up a lot of resources to grow. Legume allergies are quite common, so I’m not alone. Some people may continue to eat meat for economic reasons. Although plant protein like beans and lentils are really cheap, a lot of baking options are absolutely not.** Judging people for not giving up animal products is somewhat a question of privilege. The point is that people may have reasons for choosing their diets and making blanket statements about them isn’t really helpful.

Environmentalism is about making choices that promote sustainability and promoting awareness about environmental issues. Considering that, omnivores can absolutely be environmentalists. Veganism is a choice that many people make to help reduce their environmental footprint, and it’s a very good choice overall. Raising animals takes up a lot of resources, so cutting animal products out of your diet definitely helps the planet. Still, it’s only one of many environmental choices you can make. I don’t own a car, cycle almost everywhere, take the train whenever possible, reuse things, and avoid buying new products whenever necessary, among other things. I’ve also cut my meat consumption drastically over the past month and made an effort to choose better dairy and egg options. Other people make different choices and I’m ok with that, as long as they make some sort of effort and take steps to lead a more environmental life. About a week ago, I read an op-ed piece about how people often call vegans hypocrites when they make less environmental choices in other areas of their lives.*** The point was that it’s not really fair to expect vegans to be perfect based on their decision to eat a more sustainable diet. I think that’s a totally fair point and the same should apply to all environmentalists (in most cases, at least – some people are truly hypocritical).

Perhaps, instead of excluding omnivores from the environmentalist community, critics should keep spreading awareness about the impact of factory farming, the energy that goes into raising beef, food wastage, and overconsumption. Personally, posts like this have helped me make better choices in my diet, even if I can’t totally cut out meat. They might help other people do the same. These types of messages tend to be a lot more inclusive, and people are generally more willing to accept inclusive messages than ones that they feel totally exclude them.

*I got this image from this Facebook post. I wanted to share it because I wanted to publicly comment on it, but I don’t know who owns the content here. If you are the owner of this image and want me to take it down, please contact me and let me know 🙂
**This might be a different story in different places, but I can tell you that both here and in western Canada, this is absolutely the case.
***For the life of me, I can’t find this piece again. If anyone knows what I’m talking about, please send it to me.

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