Tue, Jan-12-21, 09:59
To Good Health!
Behind a paywall at the Herald Scotland, but think this is the whole article:
It’s Veganuary once more, the annual prod to stop eating animal foods, and yet again I won’t be taking up the invitation. Vegans make up about 1% of the UK population. That figure has remained almost static over the years, belying their vociferousness. The reality is that there are far more ex-vegans, or “recovering” vegans in these isles than practising ones.
This year, an interesting fissure in the vegan movement emerged: vegans and “ultra-vegans”. The latter term was coined by the environmental campaigner Chris Packham.
“The people I call ultra-vegans just want to stop all meat consumption overnight. But that would be no good for meat farmers. It would be no good for our landscapes, where low-intensity, good-quality animal husbandry and livestock farming are actually good for biodiversity.”
So the language around Veganuary is softening somewhat. An open letter, organised by the Veganuary Association and signed by celebs, such as Alan Cumming and Paul McCartney, states: “We cannot tackle climate change while we farm and eat animals on an industrial scale”.
This is a shift from more heated rhetoric in previous years that condemned all livestock production indiscriminately, as if crofter-reared Shetland lamb was no different from fast food beef from a dusty US feedlot.
So if I get into discussion with someone contemplating becoming vegan, I’ll be asking them to mull over these thoughts before adopting this extreme approach.
I’d first see if they have read The Vegetarian Myth, by the Canadian author Lierre Keith. She was a vegan for over 20 years, believing this diet would honour animals, feed the hungry, and save the planet. Now she believes veganism “is one part cult, one part eating disorder”, and that it “destroyed her body”.
She recounts how her fervent ideological determination blinded her to early warning signs, such as missed periods. She describes how she has been left with irreversible spine disease, gut problems, pain and more.
She includes depression and anxiety in this tally, which thankfully alleviated substantially once she jumped off the vegan wagon.
“You don’t have to try this for yourself. You’re allowed to learn from my mistakes”, she urges would-be vegan recruits.
Over 100 startling pages Keith details the nutritional reasons why sustained veganism is no formula for human health. Even those who refuse to read it would be advised to skim it, if only to learn what daily supplements they will need to prevent their bodies becoming gravely deficient in macro- and micro-nutrients that are essential for good health.
I’d also ask provisional vegans to consider what food our land is best at producing. Scotland is world famous not for soya, corn, legumes, and other vegan staples, but for our cattle breeds, such as Aberdeen Angus for meat, and Ayrshire for milk.
Why? They reflect our agricultural strengths, within natural biological and climactic limits. A vegan diet asks you to cold-shoulder the foods we farm most effortlessly, which seems daft.
To those attracted to veganism because it is supposedly “death-free”, I’d say think again.
All agriculture involves bloody animal death, it’s just that when it comes to plant food, the casualties of the combine harvester and sprayer are smaller: voles, worms, field mice, birds, bees, the list goes on.
Carry out a wildlife audit of permanent grassland with grazing animals, and fields for crops, you’ll find that the former always tops the latter. And from where, without the biological life introduced into soil by livestock manures, would the fertility needed to grow solely plant foods come? Fertilisers made from fossil fuels, is the answer.
My parting shot would be food quality. Acquaint yourself with the ingredients list of Oatly plain “Oatgurt”, for instance, priced at £5.50 a kilo. The first ingredient is cheap water, then we drop down to oats at 12%, followed by potato starch, rapeseed oil, modified potato starch, oat fibre, potato protein, malic and lactic acids, calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate, salt, synthetic vitamins, and potassium iodide.
Thanks but no thanks. I’ll stick with real yoghurt made from the milk of real cows – or goats, or sheep, or buffalo.
Forget Veganuary, I’m trying out Regenuary: basing my meals on the foods that are produced here, using regenerative farming methods that improve the environment, not trash it.
That’s the truly progressive food goal for thinking omnivores.