CHEFS 4 THE PLANET

THE GLOBAL INFORMATION AND SOLUTIONS NETWORK FOR SUSTAINABLE GASTRONOMY

THE GLOBAL INFORMATION AND SOLUTIONS NETWORK FOR SUSTAINABLE GASTRONOMY

“Vegan” Shouldn’t Be The Last Word in Sustainability

Not many changes to American food consumption patterns have been as prevalent and consistent as the rise of veganism over the past few decades. Once considered to be a fringe diet only followed by animal rights activists and health enthusiasts, the number of vegans in the United States has increased from 290,000 to 9.7 million over the last 15 years, and Google Trends data reports that interest in veganism in 2019 was 10 times what it was in 2004. Even more notable is the increase in demand for plant-based products among non-vegan consumers.  39% of American consumers in 2017 were reported as trying to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diet, and just this September, the factory farming magnate McDonald’s introduced their first-ever Beyond Meat burger. 

Veganism fills a growing desire in the West to eat more sustainably and ethically. As an alternative diet that seemingly rejects the industrialized processing commonly associated with the livestock industry’s factory farms, it often comes across as a panacea for all agricultural industry issues. However, veganism alone is not the best dietary solution to the unsustainable and unethical practices of industrial food, since it exists within the food industry’s colonialist framework, and its absolutist dietary ideology oppresses cultural interpretation outside of its Eurocentric guidelines. Furthermore, if they lack proper focus on the local context, vegan diets can still have perverse effects on sustainability. In its narrow emphasis on food products over food production, without a further prioritization of local agriculture, veganism is an incomplete solution to the ethical and environmental problems it seeks to remedy.

The Complexities Veganism Doesn’t Capture

Veganism is a diet with one rule — cutting out the consumption of animal products. The simplicity has drawn in various non-vegans, who have started “looking for more plant-based options, [whether they are] looking for something healthier, something more sustainable … the demand is growing,” explained marketing researcher and assistant professor of marketing at Williamson College of Business Dr. Emre Ulusory in an interview with the HPR. This can also create problems, however, by ignoring some of the fundamental complexities of sustainable and ethical dieting. 

Sustainable food systems need to consider the method of production in addition to the products themselves.

Read the rest here: https://harvardpolitics.com/more-than-veganism/

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