I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, but have put it off as I know how much time it will take to get all my thoughts down in a coherent and as-concise-as-possible blog post. After a post by fellow eco blogger Leotie Lovely aka Holly Rose who despite being plant-based herself, very kindly came to my defense regarding a recent YouTube comment, I felt inspired to get this over and done with.
Since starting eco-boost I get daily comments (mostly via YouTube) about the fact that I am not vegan/vegetarian and how my zero waste efforts are not worth it because I eat meat – an industry which we are constantly told is very pollutive and plays a large role in Climate Change. I am often asked if I have seen Cowspiracy. Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Read on, my friend!
With all of this in mind, I thought it was high time to put my thoughts around my own food-losophy out there. I am not telling you this to convince you to change your ways. I know how annoying it is to have someone tell you to eat differently becuase they think they know best. I am simply sharing my journey and how I choose what I eat. You do your thang, I’ll do mine.
ONCE UPON A TIME….
I was vegetarian for 13 years. At the age of 11, I was half-way through eating a “chicken” kiev (in hindsight, I’m not sure how much real chicken was actually in that kiev) when a thought popped into my mind for the first time: “wait, what I’m eating was once alive?!”- making the connection that I was eating an animal. WTF?! Around the same time, I had also witnessed some protesters at the ferry port on our drive back from our holiday in France – it was against transporting live animals for days at a time in terrible conditions to be slaughtered. It all made me feel uncomfortable and back then, I was unaware there was a different or better way. My school trip to a “farm” which was actually to an intensive farm as part of our science class was another thought provoking moment. I saw pigs in crates in which they couldn’t turn around. I saw pools of fish being fed an artificial feed. This wasn’t a farm as I had expected it to be. No animals in fields. Just cages. As a result of these various encounters, the only thing I felt I could do at that young age was to cut out all meat and fish and go full veggie.
At the time, I believed it was the best thing ever. I thought if everyone became a vegetarian then the world’s environmental problems and unethical animal practices would start to correct themselves and animals wouldn’t have to suffer or be killed. To sum it up, I felt a bit superior I suppose. I didn’t have platforms like YouTube, Twitter or Instagram to share my thoughts…. Blogs didn’t exist… in fact, the internet was still relatively new (I’m 34 yrs old by the way, in case you’re wondering) – school homework involved inserting a rather new-fangled-at-the-time CD (although floppy discs were still prevalent!) called Encarta Encyclopedia, which offered limited information about a handful of topics. Or I went to the library. ‘Twas a simpler time! But, it meant if I wanted to find out information, I had to do some proper research using books and archived newspaper articles… wow, we’ve come a long way in the last 15 years, huh?! I couldn’t hide behind anonymous comments online if I wanted to say something. I had to have a conversation; a discussion with people. I had to be considered in my approach and explain my reasons and do it in a non-aggressive, polite and respectful way.
Fast forward 13 years and I was starting to feel the negative side effects of being vegetarian. I consistently had flu several times a year; I had back-to-back colds (one friend even commented that she couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t have a cold) and I seemed to catch them all! My immune system was low. I was napping daily and felt low on energy. I was eating A LOT and still didn’t feel satisfied. Turns out I’m not alone. I have since spoken to several ex-veggies who experienced similar side-effects after many, many years eating a vegetarian or vegan diet. Below is a comment left on one of my videos from someone who had a similar experience and is now studying biology, which I found interesting and a refreshing change:
The above comment, which was written by a viewer of my YouTube channel in response to another vegan comment, summed up exactly what I had experienced and my approach to food. I took a screenshot because it was one of the first occasions someone had voiced a similar view around meat to my own in the comments section of my YouTube channel. I have also just finished reading The Meat Fix by John Nicholson * – a writer who experienced the same things as me and a whole lot worse (!!!) after being a veggie/vegan (he alternated between the two) for 26 years. I like that he questioned all of the current health advice that we are constantly sold: such as eating 5-a-day and that plant-based diets are supposedly healthier, eat lots of grains and that fats are bad etc. There is no guarantee that this is actually better for us and in fact we are now told that fat is good and that 5-a-day was made up! He now says being veggie/vegan was the worst thing he ever did. And I agree to a point. On the positive side, going vegetarian certainly made me a conscious consumer and very aware of what was in my food.
To give you an idea, I was eating things like oats, pasta, tofu (in various forms), soya (in various forms), hummus, vegetables, bread, nuts, seeds, cheese (from time to time), lentils, pulses, beans, eggs (rarely). I chose soya milk instead of cow’s milk as I felt dairy didn’t fully settle in my stomach very well at the time. I felt that I rarely ate much processed food but looking back I definitely ate more than I do now (I’m now very much a meat eater!) – in the form of pre-packaged marinated tofu, veggie sausages, nut loaves etc. I hated the taste of Quorn, though! Yuck!
Even when I was veggie, I felt veganism was a step too far for me. From what I understood at the time, veganism did not believe in using any part of animals or using them as part of the production of food. I believe there are some parts of animals that have huge benefits – wool, for example, is a great alternative to chemical fire retardant in mattresses, it is a biodegradable alternative to synthetic fibres when it comes to warm clothing and the animal did not die to make it. Sure, not all wool is created equal but I would rather do some research into where it has come from and how the animals are looked after than avoid it at all costs. Especially as it is such a unique and special material with so many beneficial properties.
Then, in my last year of being a veggie, I reached a point where I was literally dreaming about eating fish. I couldn’t stop salivating at friends’ BBQs when the smell of cooked meat hit my nose and I eventually decided to just listen to my body. I was seriously craving meat so I began eating it again. I remember walking into Waitrose to buy some smoked mackerel as my first bite back to being an omnivore and I overheard an American woman talking on the phone saying “you know what? I’ve decided to become a vegetarian!” – it was like I had been reassured there would be someone to take my place. As I ventured into eating meat again I wanted to understand what I was eating, how it came to be on my plate and how could I eat the best meat possible that aligned with my values.
I started buying organic everything but felt frustrated that so much organic produce was heavily wrapped in plastic packaging. Even more so than non-organic produce! Eventually, I stumbled upon the Zero Waste lifestyle which made a lot of sense to me. I found a set of values and an approach to life that I felt I could embrace and enjoy without my personal health being compromised.
I now only eat food that is:
- Organic and produced in a biodiverse environment. No mono-cultures thanks! Even organic ones. Essentially, I want healthy soils which means choosing foods that have been farmed with a respect for the environment, local wildlife and farm animals. Some may argue it is more expensive to buy organic food, meat in particular. Personally, I think it is money well spent. Households used to spend a much larger percentage of their income on their grocery shopping whereas today we expect cheaper foods and thus spend less, feeling outraged if we have to sacrifice buying a new pair of sneakers to feed ourselves. We want more, for less…. And I believe our priorities need to change, with quality, chemical-free, natural food being at the top of the list. I am extremely against the use of GMOs (which are not permitted in organic farming at any stage) and everything they stand for. They are increasingly making their way into our food system, via processed foods and yes, meat! If it isn’t organic, then it is most likely that the animals in the UK and elsewhere are being fed imported grain from GM crops. Crops that are sprayed heavily with toxic synthetic chemicals, that deplete the soils of nutrients, kill local wildlife, disrupt natural eco-systems, and pollute water sources. I believe that if you’re a conscious eater, vegan, vegetarian, or meat eater, buying non-organic foods is essentially killing wildlife. Not to mention the health of the farmers and workers in the fields being severely compromised and in many cases having extremely detrimental effects (skin conditions, birth defects…).
- Locally sourced and native to where I live, which is the UK. I believe that local foods are designed to nourish you for the local climate. For that reason, I rarely eat avocados, bananas and sweet potatoes for example, because they do not grow here in the UK. I still buy coconut oil but find I’m using it less and less (update 12.02.18 – I no longer bother buying coconut oil). Instead, I’m cooking more and more with butter or animal lard which comes from local, organic farms. I still buy coffee… And sometimes nuts that aren’t local… oh and chocolate! It contains 4 ingredients and there’s no soya lecithin! But everything in moderation. I often think of the non-local fashionable foods such as avocados and quinoa (although there is now one farm in the UK that grows quinoa) that are not only imported, but also mean that the local communities where they are grown can no longer afford them or that their local environment is under pressure to produce more and more just to satisfy the western food trends for eating more plant based, “super-foods”, thus depleting their local biodiversity. Not cool….
- Seasonal, meaning I don’t eat vegetables which have either had a lot of input to allow them to grow out of season or that have been transported from another country. If the onions in my farm shop comes from Holland then I’ll choose an alternative such as leaks from England or shallots from Wales. Same goes for meat. All meat I buy comes from the UK and is certified by the Soil Association – the UK’s largest and highest organic certifier.
- Unprocessed, unless we’re talking fermentation or similarly old-school form of processing, then I am not interested. No chemical additives and no GMOS used in the making of the products which means they do not need to be labelled on the product (an example of this, would be vegan cheese, fyi!). When we look at the bigger picture, GMOs are one of the key reasons why meat is so cheap in the first place (subsidised commodity crops such as corn and soy are deliberately over-produced to be used as cheap animal feed in place of grass). They are also the reason why our soils are depleted of nutrients, why animals can be farmed intensively, why pesticides are used in such heavy doses, why our food is becoming less nutritious, why our wildlife is dwindling and why farmers aren’t making any money. I want to keep it real, follks!
- Unpackaged, means I avoid a lot of gasses and chemicals that are currently permitted for use in all packaged products. Ever wondered why bags of salad wilt after 2 days? ‘Inert’ gas. Even in organic bags of salad? They can be kept looking fresh and perky having travelled half way around the world, but can’t handle your fridge for more than a day or two once opened! And I wonder about the nutritional content of a product that was picked weeks ago, kept looking fresh using gas and travelled a long distance…Not to mention that those salad bags make up a large portion of waste from our fridges in the UK as they are so rarely finished and come heavily packaged in plastic. I buy all of my meat, vegetables, fruits, coffee, tea and grains without packaging – I bring my own and fill them up at the stores. Some items I buy in either paper or glass packaging, without plastic. Something else to consider is that just because you’re not eating an animal, it doesn’t mean you are opting out of killing it in a slow, torturous way if you continue to buy plastic packaged foods. Just consider the whale found with plastic bags in it’s stomach which are said to be the cause of death (along with other plastic found in it’s stomach). Or the albatross who feed small pieces of plastic to their young… plastic from lids to dairy-free milk perhaps? Those young get so filled up with undigestible plastic that they starve to death. Just something to consider if you’re thinking veganism is superior to a zero waste lifestyle. Cruelty free only considers the before story; the production of a product. It doesn’t consider how harmful a product or packaging may be to wildlife once it has been disposed of.
- Made from scratch. As much as possible. I have a natural interest in how things are made. I want to learn how to ferment foods, how to grow plants, how to mill flour. Even if I buy the product, I then know what ingredients should be in there and which are commercially produced additives. I do not put yeast in my homemade stock so why should it be included in manufactured stock cubes?
- Adventurous! I try to eat wild (rabbit, venison!) or try unusual cuts of animals that usually get wasted. During our recent holiday to Crete, I ate Mountain Goat because it was local and EVERYWHERE. We couldn’t drive anywhere without seeing them roaming the rocky mountain sides, living the good life. It was delicious. Last year, I ate the “chap” of a pig – which is the cheek served on the jaw bone with teeth still attached. Recently I tried buying, preparing, cooking and eating tongue for the first time! Tongue tacos! And last week, I ventured into livers and kidneys. Weirdly, some might say, I like to be reminded of where my food has come from and the more it looks like the animal, the better. I believe a lot of our issues around food have come about because we don’t ask enough questions about the practises that go on and we’re disconnected from the fact that we are eating an animal. And might I add, the tongue was delicious! I am yet to try squirrel, although I’ve noticed it in some recipes lately.
- Whole – I eat the skin, I boil the bones and work left overs into other meals. I wear leather, I wear wool, I wear sheepskin. I even use soap made from waste pig fat. I believe if we have taken the time and resources to farm, slaughter and eat an animal, we should use the whole animal. I hope to learn how to fully process an animal carcass one day as well as how to cook with a fire pit…. and improvise on the harmonica…. but I digress….
As a result, I am reconnecting to where my food comes from and have a huge appreciation for the role animals and humans play in our eco-system. Because of our long history with cultivation, many species are now dependent on their relationship with humans to survive as a species. We are connected. Animals eat other animals, humans eat animals. I feel strongly it is in my nature. We have farmed animals for meat for many thousands of years and hunted them long before then. To quote Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s book MEAT which I bought specifically because it shows how an animal is killed and advises on how to use up the offal (trotters, ear, tails, livers, cheek, tongue etc):
“It is likely that we were meat eaters throughout that period of our development when our moral capacity could be said to have evolved. There is continuity in our meat eating and it is, in some deep-rooted, even hard-wired way, natural.”
Natural. Eating meat is natural. There is nothing wrong in eating meat and we should not be made to feel we are doing something wrong by eating naturally. I believe the true problem is systematic. We have become stuck in a system which delivers a cheap meat-like-product. Eating industrially farmed meat and crops grown using synthetic chemicals which are then packaged and processed with more chemical additives is not normal. It is not natural. It’s a cruel system from start to finish and I think has so many faults on every level.
The “Meat Industry”
I recently read a copy of Roots and Bone magazine and there was a well written piece inside on the topic of eating meat which demonstrates just how ridiculous the modern industrial system is:
“Goats and sheep roam land which is unsuitable even for vines. Cows eat grass and straw – which humans have problems digesting – on grasslands where crops cannot grow. Pigs convert waste – unfit for human consumption – into food; and our own food waste can be fed to pigs, as small holders have done for centuries. Yet this pastoral idyll has largely been surplanted by a model feeding animals on grains which are more than suitable for human consumption.”
Crazy really. We couldn’t have come up with a more cruel and wasteful system to bring everyone cheap meat. In the “Fire” episode of the Netflix series Cooked (an adaptation of Michael Pollan’s book Cooked), he looks at how eating meat has played such a huge role in our evolution and may be one of the main reasons why we have such complex brains and small stomachs today. But in the last 50 years or so it has become quite a different product with such a huge environmental and human health impact; the majority of meat today is industrially farmed and highly processed. To me, this is not real “meat”.
And what do we class as the “meat industry”? All meat? I firmly believe that the meat from an industrial, intensively farmed animal is a completely different product to meat that has come from a naturally and organically reared animal that lives in harmony with the local eco system. Industrial meat should have a different name. It is a synthetic, unnatural meat-like-product that is a poor imitation and has been manufactured, not farmed. It might look and taste like meat. But it is not meat as we have known it in the past. It is a commercial product that comes from a very cruel and disrespectful system. It is all about cutting costs at all costs.
Industrial meat has been shown to hold less nutritional value when compared to organic meat and I find the simple word “meat” to be far too limiting. When it comes to nutrition, a recent study by Newcastle University has shown that meat and dairy from organically farmed cows is nutritionally different. Honestly, even if it wasn’t, I would be happy in the fact that those animals are being treated well, nurturing the soils and that the local wild life is respected.
As a meat eater, I could argue that the “soya industry”, which is also a main source of “protein” for many folks on a plant based diet, not only degrades the soil of nutrients by being a mono (almost all of it is GM!) cash crop but is a main source of feed for intensively farmed livestock, along with commodity corn, which you’ll also find in most processed food products in the form of high fructose corn syrup. One could argue that a vegan who eats soya is supporting the “soya industry” which helps feed industrial meat farming methods – the very methods they want to avoid! But what if you choose to buy organic, non-gmo soya? How is that different than me saying I buy organic meat? If you want to call all meat the “meat industry” then all soya is the “soya industry”. Regardless of provenance. I, of course, do not believe all soya and meat are created equal. You can buy better versions of both and I choose to buy the best I can when it comes to all food, avoiding supermarkets and sticking to my food pillars as listed above.
The Bitter Taste of Almond Milk
Do vegans consider the exploitation of honey bees in California every February whilst enjoying their dairy-free almond milk? The majority (80%!) of almonds we consume globally are produced in California, where each Spring, around 1.6 million hives in the U.S. are transported from all over the country (long distances in trucks) to California. The transportation process is extremely stressful for the bees and means they are forced to eat the same diet for weeks at a time instead of their usual diverse fare.
Also, almonds, unless organic, are treated with pesticides and fungicides which affects the bees’ delicate immune systems. And remember, all of this isn’t to produce honey, which is also collected from the bees, IT IS TO PRODUCE ALMONDS! It is more lucrative for bee keepers to transport their bees to pollinate almonds than to sell honey. I’ll be honest, I had no idea this happened either until I read Modified by Caitlin Shetterly*.
I have found the meat I buy from Dayelsford Farm, which is where the majority of the meat I buy comes from, to be so satiating that I do not need a huge hunk of it. By eating this way, I am consuming a smaller quantity and still feeling nutritionally full. I read Megan Kimble’s book, Unprocessed * and she interestingly noticed the same after being vegetarian for many years and not feeling satiated. It wasn’t until she quit processed foods for a year, started eating locally sourced meat (she even takes part in a course to kill and butcher an animal too!), learned how things were really made and started reconnecting with where her food came from by making things from scratch that she felt empowered by her choices and finally “full”.
And what about calves being separated from their mothers at birth? And male dairy cows being slaughtered at birth? I buy meat from Daylesford Farm. They do not practise any of this. I have spoken to their butchers. I have visited the farms where the animals are clearly together with their offspring or a surrogate. I have read about it on their website. I have since found out that any farm certified by the Soil Association is not allowed to practise any of these things. Animal welfare comes first. Daylesford even have their own abattoir so they can have the highest standards possible and it’s something they’ve been happy to show journalists around. They believe if an animal is stressed then the quality of meat will be terrible. No one benefits from an animal being stressed. If they are stressed, they return the animal to the field and wait for another day when it will be more relaxed. The animals do not see any others being killed. Knowing all of this, I feel confident and happy supporting the way they do things.
Do we know how a vegan or veggie burger is made? Which chemicals have been used to give it a certain texture or “mouth feel”? How those chemicals were made? Were they tested on animals? Did they use GMOs? What environmental impact they have? Has a local community or species suffered due to mass producing a nut, a fruit or a vegetable we’re eating? I encourage you to find out, although most of the time these won’t be labelled on the packet as they are considered part of the process of the product, not part of the end product. Whatever we eat, knowing and connecting where our food comes from and the impact it can have is such a huge step in the right direction and we can choose to act in a way that aligns with our own values, not someone else’s view of what is sustainable, which brings me to the voice of mean-vegans out there….
Mea-gans (aka mean vegans)
The trouble with mean-vegans (and I’m certainly not saying all vegans, just the abusive ones, ironically) is that no matter what I say, they are not open to the other side of the story. It is their way or I’m a selfish, insensitive person in their eyes. I once gave a full, well-rounded answer to a pro-vegan comment and I got slated because it was a long comment! If I hadn’t explained myself, would I get criticised for it not being detailed enough? HELP! It’s a no win situation. I’ve stopped paying these comments any attention. In my eyes, it is a form of bullying in disguise – for a “good cause” – but still bullying. This behaviour does not deserve my time so I ignore it.
On the flip side, I also get a lot of kind vegan comments, well meaning people who are simply curious to understand why I eat meat and are curious as to whether or not I had considered veganism? For them, I have written this blog post.
But, have you seen Cowspiracy?
As well as being constantly pitched for veganism, there’s almost always a reference to the documentary Cowspiracy included in the comments as if it’s the only source out there. Yes I have seen it and here’s what I thought:
Cowspiracy annoyed me. The moment at which Kip Andersen drove away with the duck in the front seat of his car made me realise it wasn’t a documentary about the environment. That duck is not contributing towards climate change. It was suddenly very obvious to me that this was actually a piece of vegan propaganda in the guise of an environmental documentary and that Kip had an issue with killing and eating animals.
I have since read up around Cowspiracy and I wasn’t that surprised to hear how incorrect the facts are and how much they have been blown out of proportion. At the end of this blog post are some links to articles which discuss the “facts” in Cowspiracy.
I also strongly feel that organic farming was hugely misrepresented in Cowspiracy, touching on it only briefly and clearly using a lowest-of-the-low “organic” cow as an example. Animal husbandry should be key (matching animals to suitable land), and cows that are not designed to live off a barren landscape, should not be farmed there (which is what they showed as the organic example… a cow on a barren landscape). In fact, cows aren’t even native to the U.S. Perhaps buffalo aka bison should be making a comeback as they are more suited to the terrain and not intensively farmed. Was that mentioned? Not that I recall…
Whilst reading Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma as well as Megan Kimble’s book, Unprocessed, I was shocked to discover that in the U.S., even so-called “organic” animals can get away with being kept in only slightly more spacious feed-lots aka CAFOs or barns instead of out in the field. They are fed “organic” grain instead of their natural diet of grasses and clovers or grubs which they are actually designed to eat and despite all of this can still be labelled as organic. This is known as “Big Organic”. It’s a thing in the U.S. and I do not agree with it. Cows, by the way, are not designed to eat grains such as corn or soy. They are designed to eat grass and as a result, grain fed cattle suffer from trapped gas which is extremely painful for them.
Finally, Cowspiracy doesn’t consider how farm animals can actually help reduce carbon emissions if they are farmed respectfully and in moderation. Their manure and urine feeds our soils. You wanna be vegan or veggie and eat nutritious plants and vegetables? You need healthy soil. Unless you want it sprayed with synthetic chemical fertilisers, using animal by-products, including cow manure, chicken poo, urine, bones, worms, fermented fish etc is how you fertilise soil and keep it healthy. I keep worms for this very reason. In my eyes, it’s a perfectly natural and normal thing that more people should try. I spend time with the worms most mornings and once again, they have helped me understand just how wonderful our eco-system really is.
This article by Marianne Landzettel for the Soil Association explains really well just how choosing truly organic meat and dairy can be beneficial for the planet, our soils and our health.
Simply put, even if organically farmed animals produce more greenhouse gases due to the fact they are alive longer, these higher emissions may be offset, by the amount of carbon stored in the healthy soil which is a direct result of organic, biodiverse farming methods (where the animals play a crucial role). It is regenerative. It should also be considered that despite a longer life, the energy inputs in organic farming are far fewer than intensively farmed agriculture. There are many factors to consider and at the end of the day, organic farming methods sit more comfortably with me and they make sense. They work with the natural rhythms of nature, not against it.
For me, the importance of our eco-system lies within the soil. Intensive, industrial farming means our soils have been abused as much as the animals in the same system. Deforestation to grow crops such as soya for animal feed as well as space for the CAFOs themselves means our soils are starved of any biodiversity. Local water systems are polluted with chemical run off from pesticides used on crops and wildlife suffers through drought due to poor soil quality. If you want to understand just how magical and important soil is, watch this 12 minute doumentary on Vimeo called Soil Carbon Cowboys.
Back To Basics
I firmly believe that we have become so disconnected to where our food comes from. Personally, this ex-veggie wants to get back to basics and I hope to take some courses (once I’ve saved a few pennies!) to start “re-wilding” myself. I want to catch my own food, understand how to butcher it and use it all up. I want to forage, understand our land and seasons and embrace what nature has to offer.
I am yet to see a tribe, or indigenous people who eat a vegan diet. I was watching Ben Fogle’s New Lives In The Wild recently where he visited an incredible woman who lives her life in an American National Park as if it was the Stone Age. She eats meat. She hunts it, eats it and wears the skins and uses the fat and various off cuts for different things. I’d wager her environmental impact is the lowest out there. In another episode of the same tv show, an ex-vegetarian was farming her own pigs and butchering them. She said eating meat that she had produced herself has re-awakened something primal and instinctive in her and she now feels more connected to nature than during her days of being vegetarian.
Another programme followed the role of the Wildebeest in the Serengeti and guess what? As part of that eco-system, was a tribe of men and women. They hunted and ate baboon as part of their diet. They did it respectfully, with huge gratitude and only took what they needed. They understood that it is something their bodies need in order to survive and thrive.
Which brings me to the argument for wild meat. At this time of year (Autumn/Winter), I tend to eat more wild venison instead of beef. Again, these are sourced within the UK, are seasonal and live a wild existence. I’ve seen recipes using squirrel and pigeon in the press lately. Crayfish are not native to the UK, having been introduced from America. They have disrupted the eco-systems in our rivers. I eat them if I see them on a menu in a restaurant (you need a special permit to catch crayfish). When it comes to fish, at the moment I don’t eat as much as I would like to because of the amount of plastic found in sea life. A recent study showed that a third of the fish caught in UK waters contained plastic …. Which reinforces my belief that a life lived with less plastic is beneficial to all. I still eat some fish, but I make sure it is wild, from somewhere in the UK such as Cornwall and caught using a line or a crab/lobster pot. I would like to try catching my own in the near future.
At the end of the day, if someone finds the idea of eating an animal (a sentient being) upsetting, then best avoid eating it. I understand and fully appreciate that. I was exactly the same once. If the argument is environmental, then I’d encourage more reading around the topic and please remember that not all meat is created equal, sadly. I choose to eat along my own set of values. No amount of YouTube comments is going to change that. No mis-guiding documentary is going to change that. The latest government guidelines or scientific research won’t change it. In a day and age when we are told so many messages about what we “should” be doing or “should” be avoiding, I find it calming and far more sustainable to just listen to my own body. No one knows it better than I do. No one. I have become an instinctive eater and feel my body is in the best health it has ever been in. I am not going to deprive my body of what it needs to thrive.
And now that I have let you all know where I stand in the world of food and being eco-friendly, I hope we can move on. This is my journey, 34 years of it and counting. I personally do not believe veganism is the only answer or the even right answer when it comes to working with nature and reducing our environmental issues. I feel I have found my true values in a zero waste lifestyle, but no one can say whether or not it is any better. All I know is that it works for me and aligns with my values. I feel more alive than ever and more connected to this beautiful planet than ever. I want to be guided by nature. 13 years of being a vegetarian tells me it is not sustainable for me. It did not reconnect me with nature. It made me ill.
I would hate for others to go through life, believing that being vegan is a way to get “healthy” or the only way to save the environment when that’s actually not the case. It depends on the person and where/how they live and what suits their body. As an example, I gave up gluten for a while believing all the hype about it being bad for us, only to feel worse and later discover from an intolerance test that it was everything I had replaced gluten with (buckwheat, brown rice, oats etc) that was not agreeing with me. We’re all different and should do what suits us at the end of the day as long as it is done with a considered and conscious approach. And I guess that’s what we all have in common when it comes to being eco-friendly. We all want to have a positive impact on our environment and make conscious choices.
There are also lots of people who thrive on a veggie or vegan way of life and it works really well for them. It’s all a personal choice and like I said before, the important thing is that more people are starting to question where their food comes from. It’s just a shame that the media takes things out of context and scientists are constantly changing their opinions on everything. Nobody really knows everything. If there’s one book I would recommend reading, it would be, The One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka who explains everything so perfectly. To take a quote from this marvellous book:
“When naive scientific knowledge becomes the basis of living, people come to live as if they are dependent only on starch, fats, and protein, and plants on nitrogen, phosphorous and potash….And the scientists, no matter how much they investigate nature, no matter how far they research, they only come to realise in the end how perfect and mysterious nature really is. To believe that by research and invention humanity can create something better than nature is an illusion.”
Put simply, I eat intuitively by listening to my body. And it’s working a treat! There is no one-size-fits-all answer and I like to remember that we are all the same in that we are different.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and congrats if you made it to the end!
Below are some extra links to blog posts, articles books and documentaries that I found useful, as well as the ones I’ve linked throughout this post. They are not there to change the way you eat. I simply feel it is important to read around the topic of eating meat and make our own decisions based on more than just media hype, inflated facts and bias.
Recent Study Finds Vegan Diet Is NOT The Most Sustainable: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/earth/going-vegan-isnt-actually-th/
4 Reasons Some Do Well As Vegans: https://authoritynutrition.com/4-reasons-some-do-well-as-vegans/
I Was Wrong About Veganism: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/sep/06/meat-production-veganism-deforestation
An Ethical Meat Eaters Response To Cowspiracy: http://primaleye.uk/ethical-meat-eaters-response-to-cowspiracy/
Cowspiracy; Stampeding In The Wrong Direction? https://newint.org/blog/2016/02/10/cowspiracy-stampeding-in-the-wrong-direction/
Meat Eating vs Vegetarian or Vegan Diets: https://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/meat-eating-vs-vegetarian-or-vegan-diets
Why Go Organic, Grass Fed and Pasture Raised: http://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/a-meat-eaters-guide-to-climate-change-health-what-you-eat-matters/why-go-organic-grass-fed-and-pasture-raised/
Organic Cows Better For The Planet: https://www.soilassociation.org/news/2016/march/15/organic-beef-and-dairy-good-for-us-the-environment/
Cows, Conspiracies and Greenpeace: http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/climate/cows-conspiracies-and-greenpeace-20151009
In Defence Of The Cow – How Eating Meat Could Help Slow Climate Change: http://www.treehugger.com/green-food/in-defense-of-the-cow-how-eating-meat-could-help-slow-climate-change.html
Organic Farms Don’t Have The Tiny Carbon Footprint They Like To Tout. But They Could: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/21/organic-farms-carbon-footprint-climate-change
The China Study Critique: https://rawfoodsos.com/the-china-study/
Newcastle University Research: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press/news/2015/10/organicvsnon-organicfood/
Books (these are just some food focussed ones I enjoyed reading)
The Third Plate by Dan Barber
GMO OMG (on Netflix)
Cooked (on Netflix)
Soil Carbon Cowboys (on Vimeo)
Mission Blue (on Netflix)
The True Cost (fashion focussed but also looks at farming practises, also on Netflix)