Veganism is trending. BUT, like any trend, it comes with many pros and cons. Talking diets is a sensitive topic too as every person has their own needs and every person has their own views about diet.
Talking environment, however, is essential to our survival. How we eat links to how we consume, shop, devour natural resources. Understanding that everything we do as humans has an impact is a start. Every breath we take, every step we take, we have an impact on Earth.
We asked the Earth Kids what they thought about Veganism and we listed the pros and cons. Then we researched the issue and we were able to compare our answers to the facts.
Earth Kids Pros and Cons of Veganism
- Good for animals: less killing
- Good for ocean: less fishing
- Good for forests: less deforestation
- Good for atmosphere: less gases being emitted
- Finances: cheaper for households
- Huge tracts of land cleared
- Pesticides & herbicides sprayed
- Huge farms, staff, machinery
- Health defects: iron, amino acids, etc lacking
- Finances: outlays to grow vegetables
Environmental Conscience.com Pros and Cons of Veganism
- May slow down climate change
- Positive health effects
- Increase in life expectancy
- Reduction of the obesity problem
- Reduction of industrial meat production
- Fewer animals have to die
- Increase in food use efficiency
- Mitigation of the hunger problem
- Reduction in use of antibiotics
- Overfishing may be prevented
- Water conservation
- Reduction in soil pollution
- Reduction of groundwater pollution
- Increased awareness regarding your diet
- Easiest time to go vegan
- Nutrient and vitamin deficiencies
- Hard to implement in your daily life
- Vegan diet can be expensive
- You may have to refrain from your favorite dishes
- You may have less power
- Reduction in muscle mass
- Possible health issues
- May be problematic for the growth of children
- Difficult for physically demanding jobs
- Imbalanced diet
- Social isolation
- Increasing need to educate yourself
- Not suitable for people with certain health issues
Earth Kids were inspired to look into the various strains of vegetarianism too. We know that a vegan is someone who eats ONLY plants. A vegetarian is someone who eats plants, with other products from animals (eggs and diary) but no meat. Now, people have decided to name themselves these names depending on WHAT they eat as SO-CALLED vegetarians! What do you think about these names?
- Carnivarian – meat eater only! Eats vegetables only WITH meat. In essence, the opposite of a vegetarian!
- Pescetarian – a vegetarian who still eats fish and seafood (so, in reality, not a vegetarian at all?!). Does not eat red meat or poultry.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian is a vegetarian who still eats dairy and eggs. No meat at all ecept these animal products. Is that a vegetarian then, or not?!
- Ovo- vegetarian – a vegetarian who only eats eggs.
Veganism vs Meat Eating: Leeya & Sophia
Sophia: When you are vegan, you don’t eat meat or dairy, or eggs… Well, I’m not vegan and I love my meat. Especially free range. That doesn’t mean you are hurting animals because you are letting them be amazing in life. My favorite is beef, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat it though.
Leeya: Things you can eat when you are a vegan or ovo-vegetarian:
- Wraps – vegie and egg
- Baked Beans
- Lots More!
Leeya: Maybe we could do a vegan Friday?
Sophia: Or if you don’t want to do a vegan Friday, you could be vegan for the week days and on the weekend you are an omnivore.
Notes from Kaely, a Vegan Convert
Hi, my name is Kaely. I am sort of vegan. Among other things, I really hate how animals are treated. This made me choose to become ovo-vegetarian. This means that I do not eat meat or dairy, but I do eat eggs. I am only 13 so I need lots of protein. And without protein it could cause problems while I’m growing. So I choose to still eat free range eggs.
This has made some very awkward situations at family braais. But it’s actually been really cool. I’m not gonna lie, it’s been hard, but I have felt so great. I have found amazing substitutes for burgers, biltong, and milk. There are all sorts of nut and rice milks, and there are numerous burger patties made from potatoes and quinoa. There is plenty of yummy tasting vegan chocolate, and there is vegan ice cream in many shops.
My mom is especially good at coming up with interesting ways to use chickpeas instead of meat, and finding healthy vegan sausages. That’s probably one of my biggest problems as a vegan. That so many of the vegan options are so unhealthy and full of GMOS and the plants that we eat can be full of pesticides.
For this reason being fully vegan can be pricey, as you need to spend so much on vegetables and foods that are healthy. That’s why I am so thankful that I am not fully vegan, because let’s be honest, I would lose my mind. There is still so much I can eat and enjoy with eggs in my diet. Like the other day, my friend, my younger sister and I made a cake that tasted AMAZING. It was so cool because there was no dairy in it. And it was simple.
I can still eat cake, and brownies, and most bread, because I have eggs in my diet. Having a diet that is beneficial for the planet does not mean giving up your favorite foods. It just means altering them a bit so they do not include dairy, or meat. Of course, you don’t have to be vegan, or even vegetarian to have an animal-friendly diet. Just check your meat, dairy, and eggs to make sure that they are free range and that the animals were brought up in a safe and happy environment.
Free range eggs and meat are way easier to find than dairy. With the diet I am on, I do not have any problems, and I am definitely not low on energy, or iron. This diet has made me become so much healthier and it is really good knowing that one less animal will be cruelly k*lled for my dinner.
Yes, meat has enormous environmental impacts on the planet.
Amelie is Avoiding Meat
“I’m vegetarian because I feel bad for the animals. I’m not saying people who are not vegetarian don’t care. They might just have a hard time giving up meat. I had a very hard time – I loved meat but I knew how bad the animals where being treated and every time I watch someone eating chicken I picture the poor chickens being killed alive and taking away their babies. I am trying my best not to eat meat for my pets and animals, but before I first started I was not into the idea. But the more I tried, the longer I could do it and now I am very happy. If you like meat too much you can eat free range meat or even have veg Fridays!”
Georgie Likes to Eat Meat
Her Earth Kid friend, Georgie, is adamantly a meat eater: “I eat meat because like meat. I like the taste but I only eat free range meat because I still care about the animals even though I’m not vegetarian. I have 2 cats that I love. My favorite food is bacon and eggs, and pasta.”
Looking at all of these differing views on eating meat, being a vegan and trying to be a unique kind of vegetarian reminds us that all kinds of diets have an environmental impact – even plant-based diets. Let’s take a closer look at this!
Environmental Impacts of Some Plant Foods
The BBC reminded us of the huge environmental impacts of crops so trendy that only the rich can afford them – the likes of avocados, mangoes, almonds, cashew nuts, cocoa and cacao.
Then again, think about all the coffee and tea you drink, the sugar, the rice, the wheat and the maize humans consume. Miles and miles of land being converted from natural to farmed; wetlands and grasslands, mountains and valleys going under sickle and saw, grader and digger. The way we live as humans is violent and damaging!
Kids are trying to convert their parents into veganism and maybe it is time to remind our kids that a plant-based diet is not all the good it is made out to be. Some plants are simply not worth buying or consuming and there are alternatives we can eat if we need a certain nutrient.
Think about the lowly peanut, a ground nut, not a tree nut, that can replace your almonds and cashews. But the process to grown and harvest them is exhausting! According to Aunt Ruby’s Peanuts,
Peanuts are legumes, not nuts. The peanut plant is unusual because it flowers above ground but the peanut grows below ground. Planted in the early spring, the peanut grows best in calcium rich sandy soil. For a good crop, 120 to 140 frost free days are required. Farmers harvest the peanuts in the fall. The peanuts are pulled from the ground by special machinery and turned over to dry in the fields for several days. The combine machines then separate the peanuts from the vines and blow the tender moist peanuts into special hoppers. They are dumped into a drying wagon and cured by forcing warm air through the wagons. Afterwards, the peanuts are taken to buying stations where they are inspected and graded for sale.
Every Plant we Eat Comes at a Price
We know that meat products like pork, mutton, beef and dairy impact the environment in diverse, harmful ways. We also now know that every plant we consume also comes at a price: air transport creates greenhouse gas emissions and flying fruits and vegetables around the world can be more harmful than the greenhouse gas emissions per kilo for poultry!
The BBC article goes on state: “Without carefully considering where our food comes from and how it is grown, our diets can have unintended consequences.”
It continues to mention how “artificial fertilisers account for at least 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the industry. The production of synthetic fertiliser emits carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane into the atmosphere, while their use on fields releases nitrous oxide, another potent greenhouse gas.”
Even the simple act of ploughing up fields releases carbon into the atmosphere and causes erosion!
Some of the Worst Offending Crops
- Avocados & Mangoes – a single avocado needs anything from 140 litres to 272 litres of water – or about 834 litres (183 gallons) per kilogram of fruit. One kilogram of mangoes needs 686 litres of water. Avos and mangoes create large carbon footprints with their added waste creation, storage requirements and more.
- Mushrooms – the US Department of Agriculture funded a study that showed that producing a kilogram of Agaricus bisporus (common mushrooms)– emits 2.13-2.95kg of CO2. Mushrooms need warm heated rooms and compost. They then release CO2 as they breathe and grow.
- Cocoa & Cacao – cocoa causes massive deforestation and loss of biodiversity. Millions of hectares of tropical forests make way for cocoa plantations. In West Africa, forests were felled to grow cacao. So much for human health needs!
- Almonds & Cashew Nuts – these are the most water-intensive large-scale crops on the planet! It is estimated that more than 4000 litres of water for every kilogram of shelled nuts is used! Add to this pesticides and fertilisers and you have a rather unhealthy crop in terms of environmental impacts.
“What is clear is that while plant-based foods and meat substitutes can be far better for the environment than livestock production as a whole, if we really want to make a difference to the environment we need to take care about what we choose to replace meat with.”
A good way to eat is in tune with the seasons and to shop locally. Support your communities and small growers. Stop your own reliance on produce that is transported across the country, or imported. Avoid fruit and vegetables that had to grow in greenhouses. Reduce meat in your diet and educate yourself about your plants.
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