rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

What if we forget about being vegan, and just buy mostly vegan food?

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Want more coverage of industrial farming, animal welfare and the environment? Support rabble.ca today!

Every year as Earth Week approaches, I cringe in anticipation of the "go green" drivel that is sure to abound. If I'm not careful, I might thoughtlessly pick up one of the newspapers littering the seats on the bus and be bombarded with appeals to save the earth by buying an LED lightbulb, a low-flow showerhead or some other nifty green product that, in its use, would reduce my ecological footprint by approximately 0.00001 per cent.

With rabble's Vegan Challenge, it's refreshing to see the focus shift to a question with far greater consequence than the type of light bulbs we're using or whether our sunscreen is biodegradable: whether or not we buy into the industrial meat industry.

Because the evidence clearly suggest that the large-scale, industrial production of meat, eggs and dairy is one of the worst contributors -- if not the very worst -- to just about every major environmental crisis you can think of. (Peter Singer provides a good overview here.)

Large-scale industrial plant agriculture is also destructive, of course. But because a large proportion of the crops grown worldwide become livestock feed, cutting meat, egg and dairy consumption is one way to cut back on monoculture soy and corn plantations too.

Some quibble with the environmentally based appeal for us to drop animal foods from our plate by arguing that, under some conditions, consuming animal foods creates a lower ecological footprint than eating plant foods.

They're right. Locally hunted caribou meat is obviously a better option than flown-in tofu when you live in a remote northern community. My jar of peanut butter, factory-processed using peanuts grown nowhere near me, probably packs a heftier ecological footprint than the eggs that guy down the road obtains from his tiny backyard flock of compost-fed chickens. And so on.

But for most of us, these arguments don't have much relevance within the context of a grocery store aisle. That's where the vast majority of people in the (over)developed world obtain most of their food. And it is where, as a general rule of thumb, an overall shift towards plant foods makes the most ecological sense.

That's not to say that everyone -- or anyone, for that matter -- needs to "be" vegan. The notion of veganism as a personal identity is not, in my opinion, very helpful. It sets up an all-or-nothing proposition where we must decide between vowing to keep any trace of animal food from ever touching our lips, or just throwing our hands in the air and walking away.

(It's a bit silly. Can you imagine if someone told you that they're a "recylcist," which means they never, ever put something recyclable in the trash? Let's say you usually recycle as well, but because last Tuesday you threw a piece of paper in the garbage bin at the bus stop, you're not a recyclist anymore. You might as well get rid of your blue box, because who are you kidding? You failed, you're a garbageist!)

Wouldn't it be better for a large number of people to dramatically reduce their purchase of animal foods, than for a tiny minority of people to attain vegan perfection?

So instead of focusing on identity badges and strict rules governing every single morsel we put in our mouths, let's keep our attention on the reason we're doing this. The modern animal agriculture industry is trashing the planet. We need to keep talking about that and pushing for an overall shift away from supporting the industry. All year, not just for one week in April. Even if we occasionally eat cheese.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.