Admission: I am not a vegan. I try to have a balanced diet of both meat and plant based meals, but I have no desire to cut animal produce from my diet completely.
The rise in popularity of plant based products has saw consumer consumption in the market rise at an unprecedented rate, looking at the Google search statistics searching for the work ‘veganism’ has increased a massive 590% in the last 5 years. And the Fast food chains have started to cotton on to this growing trend.
We’ve had Greggs here in the UK launch with much success the vegan sausage roll and steak bake with further additions rumoured to be on the way. KFC released the vegan burger providing their iconic original flavour recipe on a meat-free alternative and now its time for king of the fast food industry McDonalds to throw its stake into the game with the impending launch of the community dubbed McPlant.
But aren’t these copy-cat, meat emulators creating a new problem?
My issue with plant based proteins that imitate meat counterparts is that they are not really any more sustainable than meat itself. If a time comes when the world has dramatically reduced its consumption of meat in favour of plant based alternatives, large swathes of fertile land (possibly that which is currently used for cattle) would be required to grow the quantities needed to meet current consumption habits. Since the plant based proteins are then refined to become something akin to meat, there is still that intensive process to create the plant based substitute. I can’t see why we wouldn’t have all of the existing problems that a capitalist society breed, such as deforestation to make more cattle farming space. The problem would surely only evolve to become deforestation to make space for more crop growing farmland!
Many of the arguments against the consumption of meat link back to animal cruelty and the practice of animals being bred and raised purely for slaughter. A shift to a plant based alternatives would help to address this of course, but bringing this article back to McDonald’s recent announcement of the McPlant, one has to ask how anyone who has chosen to ditch meat for animal cruelty reasons could then endorse a company like McDonalds?
The fast food chain happens to be one of the largest producers of meat in the world, with many of their farms having featured in documentaries and news reports exposing the appalling, squalid conditions that animals are forced to live in. The same animals that go on to become our McNuggets or Big Macs. Surely any vegan cannot in good conscience endorse a vegan plant based range developed by one of the worlds biggest animal killers, and can see the McPlant range for what it is – a marketing ploy and to tap into a new-ish emerging market.
I have no issue with anyone who chooses to follow a plant based diet. I think we should all take steps to reduce our meat intake. However I also think that there must be a better solution to climate change than replacing animal meat with a plant based substitute. As the supposedly superior race, it is arguably within our capabilities to find a truly sustainable solution.
I believe the first step towards sustainable tranquillity would be for human beings to adopt a ‘grow what you need’ idealism. This could be as simply as utilizing back gardens, green spaces and/or allotments to grow our own produce to support what we and our immediate family required. Admittedly to reach this equilibrium would require a dramatic shift in current consumerism habits, and a reduction in our want for things to be available to us instantly.
But to eradicate our appetite for instant gratification, you need to break down capitalism.
And there in lies the real problem …