To be clear, I am not about to shame religious institutions that hold congregants to dietary restrictions like kashruth or halal, I’m about to shame industries that profit off hurting humans and the Earth who love to deflect blame to the general population.
I am one of the last people who would shame someone for how they eat.
I was vegetarian from ages 8 to 14, when my disordered thoughts and behaviors surrounding food finally overtook me and pushed me to veganism. The “high” I got from being vegan, the goodness that my body was supposed to feel from excluding all animal products except honey (which I later cut out) from my diet, was more of a correlation thing. The aesthetic of veganism was an emotional Band-Aid even though I was hurting my body. I loved telling people I was vegan, going out to eat with friends only to play the “I can’t eat anything on this menu” card. Eat my side salad while getting praised for my “self-control” and “how much I care about the planet.” In actuality, I was being praised for fooling my friends into thinking I was healthier, and letting us all fall prey to greenwashing. I was also pushing food taboos onto a particularly susceptible portion of the population. I’ve stopped doing this, but it still happens all around me, whether via ads or over dinner conversations. Especially this time of year, with New Year’s resolutions from people who intend to “eat healthier” or partake in the trend-based “Veganuary.”
If you want to be vegan, be vegan. I’m not going to stop you, even though medical professionals and family members worried about my low iron and vitamin levels stopped me. But please don’t go around telling people that it’s more sustainable and healthier when that isn’t necessarily true.
And if you’re not eating animals, there’s a good chance you’re eating food that was farmed by overworked, underpaid people who come from ethnic and economic minorities.
If you go vegan tomorrow, this is how you will impact the planet: When you buy groceries, you won’t buy any animal products, and either someone else buys it, or it gets taken off the shelf and thrown away. Nothing changes. If you manage to convince enough people to go vegan with you, any given local grocery store buys less of anything and it rots in a distribution warehouse. Nothing changes. You cannot cause less to be produced even if every store is distributing less. In December, the United States Department of Agriculture reported that’s already happening to up to 40 percent of food produced in the U.S. Farmers and farmers’ unions, with the help of Congress, get the federal government to purchase the excess to uphold the agricultural economy. Again, nothing changes. Your best bet here, as with most things regarding climate change, is structural change.
To eat vegan and balanced isn’t financially an option for everyone. Even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, says a vegan lifestyle is more expensive, with Business Insider confirming that if you spend $150 on groceries per month for you and one other person, it’s considered impressive if you can manage to only spend $175 on vegan groceries per person, per month. But that’s in the U.S. — living in the U.K. can make veganism about 40 percent cheaper than an omnivore diet, according to Oxford University.
If you have (rightfully) placed doubt in me, a very opinionated 17-year-old, see a registered dietitian if you’re considering drastic changes to your diet.