Vegan meat problem

A short pointer towards a suggested read – Joanna Blythman’s concise article here (in the food trade Bible – ‘The Grocer’) ‘Why we should resist the vegan putsch’ on the suggestion that we should eat very little meat from the Eat-Lancet Commission.

Surprisingly and worryingly to me, it seems to have the chemical company, Monsanto, whose weedkiller was almost banned by the EU, amoung its financial supporters.

The nutritionist, Dr Zoe Harcombe even considers it ‘nutritionally deficient’.

It is sad that we need to eat other animals to keep ourselves healthy, but the idea that veganism is the solution, when the overwhelming majority of substitute foods – just take almond milk as an example – rely on pesticides to kill insect predators and seem to be destroying the water table in California, is, to me at least, entirely fanciful.

So perhaps a not so happy Veganuary!


  1. Robert Pennington -

    I keep seeing almond milk being touted as an argument against veganism’s environmental credentials, but there is actually no vegan ‘compulsion’ to replace cow’s milk with it.

  2. Peter May -

    Agreed, but there are, to my knowledge, no realistic alternatives that are kind to the environment

    1. Robert Pennington -

      Oat milk – particularly from Oatly is very environmentally friendly. Check it out.

  3. Jenny Howell -

    I went vegan about 30 years ago for about a year before a bacon butty got the better of me. My 21 year old son went vegan last April, and the differences are stark. In the 1980s, veganism went hand in hand with whole foods, local, environmentally friendly etc. It was the full package you bought into. When I started eating meat again I still retained those other values.
    Having seen the scene through my son’s eyes, it is clear that veganism has new advocates who are young, much more male, Instagram fitness enthusiasts who share their contemporaries’ love of junk food. I enter a vegan cafe with trepidation these days fearing a menu filled with burgers and hot dogs. As a result, a vegan diet is not necessarily healthy (although probably still healthier than a meat based junk food diet).
    The second element is the industrialisation and globalisation of the way we eat. Animals mostly don’t live their lives on small, local farms and get taken to a local abattoir. For that reason alone the industry is far crueller than it ever was – and that includes the dairy industry.
    However vegan products can be an issue too. You mentioned almond milk in this context. (My concern is the staggering numbers of as yet unrecyclable Tetrapak cartons we get through at home.)
    I think veganism suffers from the same issues we see in wider political discourse – with division and anger on both sides gaining more column inches than the very real issues at the heart of this trend.

    1. Jenny Howell -

      Ah yes. I should have said unrecyclable in Cardiff where I live. Hopefully this will change.

  4. John MacKinnon -

    Monsanto’s involvement is a red herring. The main point is that the amount of land given over to rearing animals for meat, would be far more effective for food production if it were to be devoted to vegetable crops. It would also eliminate the huget amount of methane involved in this animal farming

  5. Peter May -

    Good luck with growing crops on Dartmoor or on Lake District hills. The fact is that methane emissions are vastly increased by animal factory farming and very much less – some suggest negligible – on hill grazed animals. Monsanto’s products contribute to the degradation of soil whereas animal dung greatly improves it. We need mixed farming! And limited meat consumption is good for health – in Germany for example government advice to vegetarian women who fall pregnant is not to continue.

  6. Jeni Parsons -

    Crops were grown on Dartmoor as recently as the Middle Ages – until the Black Death decimated the population. Cereals like oats and rye could still be grown, both there and in the Lake District, as well as brassicas and root crops – provided that the soils have not been eroded.

    But that proviso is the key, because erosion is the main problem. The soils are being mined over many of our hillier countrysides, and poorer quality crops produced with large additions of fertilisers – think Monsanto! I’m watching its toll on the South Downs around Chichester, where the soils become thinner every year. The normal cycle of erosion has been disrupted – soils are naturally produced by chemical and physical weathering, but they’re now being shattered into existence by deep ploughing – erosion.

    1. Peter May -

      Agreed – and some vegetables are even today grown on Dartmoor. A while ago I visited a shop in Okehampton that sells them! But to suggest that widespread cultivation to the exclusion of animal husbandry is currently viable is fanciful. Much is either peat bog or very thin soil and fertilisers are, as you point out, a long term hindrance.

  7. Graham -

    And oats at least were grown in Highland glens as well as other crops, such as potatoes in “lazy beds” but these were all done with a lot of manual labour on small allotments, the yields would be small and the high rainfall, early and late frosts could ruin a crop. Fertilizer was provided by cattle and perhaps a few goats and sheep. (the Highlander soldier always had to break off fighting the English in late summer – to get the harvest in)

    We could have an agricultural policy which restricted livestock rearing to extensive, low input systems such as found on hill land rather than keeping them in feed lots on the lowlands and feeding them barley and other concentrates. We have hardy native breeds which do well, if slowly, on rough grazing and outdoor cattle are generally more healthy than those kept indoors.

    Dr Harcombe’s blog (thanks for the link, Peter) dismantles much of the science which purports to show that ruminants are dangerous to global warming. Yes, maybe we should all eat a bit less meat – and a lot less processed junk food and sugar drinks. “Eat local and in season”

  8. Peter Dawe -

    1) On a calorie per acre basis only pulses, cereals and root crops are “better” to pigs and chicken grown on grass/cereals.
    2) I, for one, value a diverse diet that includes red meat, dairy and various other things including vegetables. To live in a world where we all live of “Rice and Beans” in no life at all IMHO
    3) Consider Cucumber! Needs copious water, typically grown in greenhouses, often heated, needs a cool chain to get to the consumer, has one of the highest wastage rates of any food. And has near ZERO nutritional value!
    When vegans abandon their hideously wasteful foods, I might think about reducing my meat and dairy!

    1. Jenny Howell -

      I’m curious about your description of vegans and their ‘hideously wasteful foods’. Are you talking about cucumbers? Don’t most people eat them? Vegan or not?

  9. Neil Robertson -

    Hi Peter,

    Thanks for the interesting link. I found the following link embedded within it which is a further critique of the science underlying the health advice to not eat meat –
    It is puzzling that after so much scientific progress in other areas the advice around nutrition and diet is so fluid.
    In my mind the only guiding principles that I am confident in are: eating less sugar and eating more unprocessed food – particularly non-starchy vegetables – as part of a varied omnivorous diet. I am not aware of any serious study that suggests that eating more sugar or eating less leafy vegetables is bad for you!

    1. Neil Robertson -

      I messed that up! Final part of final sentence should read :

      “…is good for you”

      Must read my comments before posting them 🙂

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