There has been an upsurge in veganism recently. I have no objection to that. People are entitled to choose their diet to suit themselves.
That last sentence, though, is something that vegans do not seem to agree with. They seem to be constantly trying to foist their choice onto everyone else, saying “It will help to limit Climate Change.”
Do vegans take everything into consideration, though. As well as the growth of the plant, there are other factors, like transport.
After the plant has grown, it is removed (except for fruit grown on trees, of course). In nature, the remains of the plant would go back into the soil, but if it’s removed, all that goodness is removed with it, hence making the use of fertilisers essential. Things like soya are mainly grown abroad and are flown in. Tomatoes are grown in Spain, to a large extent, and are brought in on lorries.
Here are some vegan-friendly foods. The emissions quoted are for 2.2lb (1kg)Lentils:2.0lb, 59% of which comes from transport, cooking and waste disposal.
Tomatoes: 2.4lb CO2, emitted, most of which is from transport as tomatoes are often eaten raw.
Cauliflower: 4.4 CO2 emitted. Transport and waste. The stems are maily thrown away.
Tofu: 4,4lb emitted. Mainly processing, Transport needed, it also leads to mass deforestation.
5: Dry beans: 4.4lb emitted. Post farmgate emissions are 65%.
Nuts: 5.1lb emitted. Almonds use a lot of water and pesticides in their production. Peanuts are a better option.
Peanut butter: 5.5lb emitted. Priduction and transport.
Rice: 6.0 emitted Rice farming is responsible for 12% of all methane emissions. (More potent than CO2) Also, Rice from Bangladesh and West Bengal in particular can be contaminated with arsenic as there is a lot of arsenic in the water there. It is often used as irrigation water for the paddy fields.
Potatoes: 6.4lb emitted. 90% of emissions are from cooking. Baked potatoes are worse than other types because of the length of cooking time.
One product I failed to find any statistics for is soya. But most soya is transported from where it is grown by aircraft, so any production carbon dioxide is added to by this.
Again, like Tofu, the farming of this product is responsible for much deforestation.
Who knows how much carbon dioxide is retained in our atmosphere because of the deforestation, and even added to, because much of this deforestation is done by burning?
While I admit meat production does produce higher yields of carbon dioxide. Many vegans, I suspect, don’t realise that their ‘green’ foods contribute to more carbon in the atmosphere than they think.
We must always think of the deforestation when considering our food. We are not only adding to the carbon dioxide in the air, but removing one of the carbon sinks at the same time. A vicious circle.
Now to human biology.
We are not designed to be vegan. Cellulose in plant cells is not easy to digest. Herbivores have a variety of ways in which they overcome this.
Rumanants (cattle, goats, sheep etc) have several ‘compartments’ to help digest grass. They eat the stuff, which then lies in a large ‘stomach’ called the rumen. Here, bacteria help to breakdown the cell walls The food then passes into a part called the reticulum where the liquid passes on, and the solids remain. The animal then regurgitates the food that remains and re-chews it. The next part, the liquid is digested by enzymes that also digest the bacteria and the food is absorbed.
Rabbits, during the night, pass green pellets that they eat again in the morning, thus the plants pass twice through the gut.
Horses are what is known as ‘trickle feeders’. This means they are designed to eat a small amount of food frequently.
They have a very large part of the large intestine, called the caecum. Here there are bacteria that help digest the cellulose.
Humans have none of these adaptations. We cannot digest this cellulose. Our guts are not adapted to do so. Cooking helps, but think about how some foods produce a lot of wind, and sometimes even diarrhoea if we eat too much. These are always plant foods.
Our dentition, too, is that of an omnivore. Herbivores do not have canine teeth. They have incisors for cutting off the grass or other plants, a gap, then premolars and molars, flat teeth for grinding.
Carnivores have incisors, like herbivores, then canines–sharp teeth for gripping the food. Finally, they have teeth known as carnassials. They are sharp and are for tearing flesh, unlike the flat molars of herbivores.
Humans have the incisors and flat molars and premolars of herbivores, but also canines. We do not have a long gut, nor the special parts for help in digesting cellulose, not do we eat our poo to give it a second go at being digested! (Yuk.)
These things indicate we should eat a mixed diet, including meat and fish as well as vegetable matter.
It is important for women, especially young girls, during their menstrual years, to eat meat, as it is the best way to get iron, essential for blood production. And we must be very careful what we feed our growing children. A vegan diet can mean that the child is not getting enough of vitamin B12, vitamin D, zinc, protein, calcium and iron.
I will admit that most humans eat too much meat. Our early ancestors would not have had meat every day, as many of us do. We should all cut it, but not cut it out. I also acknowledge that some meat eaters are short of other vitamins that can only be got from plants, as well as fibre. And speaking of fibre, vegan diets can be excessively high in fibre. This is not a nutrient, and too much can rob the body of nutrients.
And many products that are sold as meat substitutes to vegans are very high in salt, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.
But, in spite of this, if people wish to pursue a vegan diet, it’s up to them, The main thing I have against them is the way many of them try to make out they are so much better than the rest of us, and try to make us into vegans, too.
I accept that this might make some of you a bit unhappy. It is controversial. But please accept that I am not trying to change anyone. That would make me as bad as the people I’m criticising. It is just my point of view, with a bit of scientific evidence to back it up.