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A topic that garners a lot of debate in the world of sustainability, for a long time now, has been diet. Sustainable diet. What are the best choices you can make when cooking your dinnertime meal? Is vegan best? Is the creation of factory-generated meats a planet-saving success?
It’s hard to pinpoint what is completely right and wrong in this matter, hence why this particular article is categorised as an ‘opinion piece’ on this website!
What I wanted to do was explore theories and opinions from all sides. What the planet’s pros and cons are to the various types of ‘sustainable eating’ we’re marketed on an almost daily basis. There won’t be a definitive answer. But, rather a host of opinions for you to create your own one, and decide what you think is best to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner…
I must state before I start, I understand talk of food and diet can be a trigger for some people. Please do not read on if you feel it may cause upset in any way.
A Vegan Diet
The vegan diet, which is eating purely plant-based, is notoriously labeled the most sustainable way to eat. And rightly so in most aspects. On the one hand, the pros to eating Vegan means you’re not eating animal produce (including sealife). Meaning, there is one less person who is affecting the world’s rapidly declining biodiversity. With that, you have your carbon footprint, which is reduced by up to 73%. As the UN estimate “meat and dairy (farmed livestock) accounts for 14.5% of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions”
There is a whole load of planetary benefits to switching to vegan. Or even, just cutting down on the meat you do eat (as purely vegan isn’t accessible for everyone).
But there are arguments by some industry professionals on the negatives of veganism. One particular being the deficiencies you can experience in jumping straight to being vegan. People should consider the foods they are eating, ensuring they are ingesting the right amount of vitamins, etc. As an interesting article by Science Daily points out “When human illness rises, the environment suffers, too”.
Factory Generated Meats
A book I recently read, Who Cares Wins by Lily Cole, brought a good argument to the table surrounding factory-generated meats. Something I had not considered before. With your Quorns and Beyond Meats, whilst they produce ‘fake meats’ there is a continuous argument if it is the right way to go in terms of sustainability.
On the one hand, there are a whole host of positives in choosing ‘fake meats’ over a traditional slab of meat. Your carbon footprint is reduced tenfold and the reliance of agricultural farming is removed. It is estimated 99% less land and 80-90% less water is used to produce factory generated meat. They have a large amount of nutritional benefits too as being high in things such as antioxidants.
Whereas, on the opposite side of the argument and what ‘Who Cares Wins’ points out is, that to create lab-grown meat, more energy at their factories is required to create it. Meaning, the energy to power the factories is higher than conventional farming. With this, it also states how some ‘fake meats’ use Fetal Cows Blood to be created (therefore still attached to agriculture). Although, more recently Quorn has developed a vegan range.
The Influence of Seaspiricy
The recent release of Seaspiricy on Netflix shockingly highlighted how environmentally damaging fishing is for the planet. It’s wiping away sea life, damaging seabeds, and causing masses of plastic pollution in the forms of fishing news.
In terms of eating (or not eating fish), what is most sustainable? As anyone who watched the documentary will know that ‘dolphin-friendly’ products are anything but true. I believe cutting out or drastically reducing your seafood intake is the way to be more sustainable. An interesting article by Huffpost describes there not being a sustainable way to eat fish. By removing fish from the ocean, biodiversity as a whole is affected as well as the seabeds. Simply, the oceans have been overfished.
I personally love fish but have made efforts to cut down as well as find fish alternatives, such as Tuno being a new favourite!
One True Sustainable Diet?
With all this in mind, the pros and cons of Veganism, Factory-Generated Meats, and Fishing being shared, what is the most sustainable way to eat?
Personally, I try to eat vegan every so often but this can prove difficult on occasion. This is due to me needing to eat gluten-free (severe intolerance) not through choice! I’ve never been a big meat-eater, but love fish. So am putting in efforts to reduce my seafood intake. I think reducing the amount of meat and seafood we eat is a must, shifting towards vegan but being careful not to malnourish ourselves.
As I said at the beginning, there is no answer to this question. I simply wanted to research every aspect of a sustainable diet. As diet is extremely personal to everyone, so I will let you form your own opinion on sustainable diets! But the over arching facts are meat and fish need to be reduced in our diets. What we replace (or not replace) it with is entirely up for debate.