What is Veganism?
Veganism relates to diets that limit or exclude meat, dairy products, and eggs. Identifying as vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based was often viewed as weird or extreme — more the domain of hippies and activists than of large numbers of everyday people, however, the rate of acceptance and popularity has risen in the UK with an estimated 540,000 vegans are now in the UK. This significant increase has us question, are we falling out of love with meat?
The Rise Of Veganism
Veganism has continued to grow and has seen a significant increase in its prevalence in the media. Recently, William Sitwell, a regular critic on BBC’s MasterChef, has been forced to resign from his role editing the Waitrose Food magazine after a considerable backlash from vegans over social media. Sitwell made a ‘joke’ over email relating to veganism in response to a freelance writer who was delivering a pitch for his magazines on vegan meals. His comments were inappropriate, unethical and unprofessional as he fired back “How about a series on killing vegans, one by one. Ways to trap them? How to interrogate them properly? Expose their hypocrisy? Force-feed them meat?”. This resulted in his resignation and indeed sparked debate on whether veganism should be taken more seriously, and whether veganism is ‘saving the world’.
Should We Take More Notice Of What’s In Our Baskets?
It has been suggested that in twelve years, the damage of veganism will be irreversible. That’s not to target vegans only as we are all aware that meat consumption must also be reduced. Veganism is not as environmentally friendly as we may think it to be. With such a spike in vegans’ people are yet to question “where does this food come from” as they fill their shopping baskets full of fruits from across the world.
The fruits such as pomegranates and mangos come from India, lentils from Canada, beans from Brazil, blueberries from the US and goji berries from China. Eating a Sunday joint of lamb comes from a farm, a few miles down the road and is far more environmentally friendly than eating an avocado that has travelled halfway across the world. Those who source these fruits are left high and dry.
Avocados and quinoa prices have increased at such a rate that those who source such foods are unable to depend on them in the country of origin. The supplies are in such large demand that countries such as Kenya are banning exporting for products due to the strain on agriculture. The Agriculture and Food Authority says the average price of a 90kg-bag of avocados has reached the equivalent of £18, the highest since May 2014. Kenya has seen an 18 per cent increase in its export in the past five years, up to 50,000 tons in 2016. Other countries such as Australia are also affected by the shortage, which is causing self-imposed rationing in Queensland as prices have doubled. The lack has been created by production being down in Mexico, where it originated. Mexico is now the leader for the production of avocados sales supplying 45 per cent of the world’s avocados causing detrimental effects to those for whom this is a staple. Currently, Mexico makes more money from exporting the high fruit than it does from petroleum, and as a result of this is becoming the driving force for illegal deforestation to make way for planting more avocado trees.
Back in 2013 – which the UN dubbed the year of quinoa –, prices of the grain had reportedly become too expensive for local people to buy. But this grain is a staple part of the region’s diet. The cost of the superfood has trebled since 2006 and is now more expensive than chicken – causing average quinoa consumption in the area to fall in 2014.
Current shifts in the food industry reveal we are aware we need to eat less meat and more vegetables, but there needs to be a sensible balance.
What can we do?
Keep it local!
One way to do this is by sourcing food locally. Restaurants have opened up their kitchen gardens, growing seasonally and cutting out the carbon footprint of the long-distance transportation. Seasonality – along with plant-based diets – are two huge trends from last year.
Growing locally is not confined to food from within a certain radius, as that can be limiting. It can be expanded to producing our own, country-wide. The UK does provide the conditions for growing plant proteins for direct human consumption, such as fava beans, peas, hemp seed and sweet lupin. However, the UK currently assigns only 16 per cent of its agricultural land to grow protein crops, much of which is used to feed farmed animals, while at the moment, most of the protein crops such as lentils, chickpeas and quinoa are imported from Brazil, Canada and the US. A move in to growing more on our doorstep and relying less on other countries seems a considerable step forward, but it is certainly obtainable for us.
It is undoubtedly essential to avoid food that’s travelled thousands of miles. It is also necessary to not boycott certain foods that are exported. Developing countries rely on farming these foods like a lifeline for developing countries. It’s well within our grasp to make better food choices to reduce the negative impact on the environment.