Farhad Manjoo would like us all to not mock vegans, but his reasoning from the start fails. Writing in the New York Times, his main point is that vegans are better than us. They care more. For the animals. For the environment. They’re nicer than us omnivores, too. He’s wrong on all counts.
Let’s begin with the flawed thought going vegan will save the planet. First, the greenhouse gas emissions of cattle have been overstated. Usually what is reported includes all of the transportation cost and the supermarket cost associated with meat. Agriculture is only 9% of GHG and cattle are a mere 4% of that. If you’re blaming agriculture, then you’re looking in the wrong direction. Furthermore, we are producing more milk and more beef with fewer cows than ever before. Cattle numbers are actually going down. Also the results of one person going vegan has basically negligible greenhouse gas emissions impact and if they take a couple of plane flights in one year they would completely negate everything that they did. The entire population of the U.S. going vegan would only lower our GHG by a measly 2.6%. That is nothing. If you really care about saving the planet then going vegan is the absolute least thing you could do to make a difference.
Murderer. Rapist. Animal abuser. These are things that I’ve been called by vegans. I’ve actually had worse things said to me online and about my kids. In the United Kingdom, a sheep farmer recently was granted a restraining order against a vegan that was terrorizing and harassing him and his family. I know that not everybody is like this not everybody uses these tactics but let’s take for example some of the packaging on vegan foods. Many of them have labels that say cruelty-free. Inflammatory rhetoric like this toward omnivores and/or meat-eaters does not make the discussion easier. If they would like to differentiate themselves by saying it doesn’t contain meat can’t you just say meat-free?
The article then goes on to talk about all of the vegan fast food that is available today. Fast food is a luxury. In America at least this is an example of how being vegan is a lifestyle choice. Because of the low food prices produced by American farmers people can be highly selective about what they want to eat. If you decide to abstain from eating meat and dairy then there are many available choices and more importantly affordable choices.
In many countries, they don’t have the widespread availability and variety of food that we have here. In fact, in many countries, people don’t get all the nutrients they need. Meat has a wealth of nutrition in it that bolsters many peoples diets. Many studies that show that we could not feed the world’s population with only a vegetarian or a vegan diet. And with the expected growth by 2050 in population shouldn’t we look at all available food resources we have?
As I mentioned earlier cattle efficiency has improved while cattle numbers have gone down. Generally speaking, cattle eat lots of things people cannot eat. Many cattle are raised on ground that is not fit to raise food for people. In short, they can turn grass which is nothing for us to eat into nutrient-dense beef and milk.
Everything about livestock production here is highly regulated. Even on our small farm, state and federal inspectors came unannounced. We were not asked, we were told to comply with whatever improvements or changes they asked us to make. How much more so is regulation and oversight on larger operations? The overwhelming majority of farms in the United States are family and multigenerational. They have a huge stake in providing for their family today and down the road. It is, and will always be, an insult to say they do not care about their livestock or the environment.
Farhad says vegans are being mocked and should be treated with more respect. The truth is his entire article is written because he feels guilty that he isn’t one of them. The guilt and the shame that they put on him through their rhetoric is the only reason he wrote his article.
Lastly, more people would be better off if they took heed to the phrase when in Rome do as the Romans. I don’t always like what people cook when I go to their houses. In fact, I don’t always like what my wife cooks. I don’t have to make a big deal out of it though. I can eat what I want to and then eat a little bit more of that. When I’m at my own house and when I’m cooking my own food then I’ll make exactly what I want. And in none of these cases do I need to shame or force other people to do things especially for me. That’s what being polite looks like.