Claremont High School

Opinion: Dear vegans, not everybody can eat just like you

For those that have fallen victim to a quintessential generation Z stereotype, diet often seems to be associated with social identity. A person does not simply follow a vegan diet, but rather, is vegan a mere decision to refrain from eating certain foods quickly turns into a lifestyle many seem to over-internalize.

For some, personal identification based on food trends may seem rather cult-like and intimidating, often turning them away from a specific diet altogether, and, in some cases, allowing them to resent the thought of food limitation in the first place. In the case of veganism, such intimidation may prove itself to be entirely detrimental and counterproductive.

Without a doubt, the environmental benefits of a vegan diet are substantial. According to the widely esteemed Netflix documentary “Cowspiracy,” animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.

Additionally, emissions from agriculture are projected to increase by 80 percent by 2050. If one adopts a vegan diet, they produce 50 percent less carbon dioxide than a person who follows that of an average American.

Each day, a vegan saves up to the equivalent of 20 pounds of carbon dioxide. With this in mind, it is certain that widespread veganism may be a huge step in effectively addressing climate change. However, in order to achieve such an impact, the number of those switching to a vegan diet must dramatically increase, which starts with creating a more welcoming community.    

When it comes to veganism, many “hardcore” subscribers seem to favor an all-or-nothing approach. In other words, in order to be fully accepted by the vegan community, one must give up all animal products cold tofurkey. Those who do not are automatically labeled as “fake” vegans and proceed to be shamed for the remaining animal products in their diet, an expectation that is entirely unrealistic.  

On the other hand, those who choose not to follow a vegan diet are often shamed even further, regardless of whether they have food allergies, are ignorant, or do not possess the time or financial means to carry out a healthy vegan diet. When those people are frantically shot at with facts and statistics about animal agriculture, resentment and enemy creation is inevitable. This intimidation only spreads to others in the long run, which will only build a more intense anti-vegan sentiment.

This, in turn, gives some all the more reason to not make the effort in changing their diet in the first place. When the vegan community’s ultimate goal is to effectively defund animal agriculture corporations, incentivizing fewer people to do so could be detrimental to their cause in the long run.

In reality, small and gradual changes to a vegan diet have shown to produce notable environmental benefits. Meatless Monday, a nonprofit organization and movement created to motivate people to pass up meat solely on Mondays, stresses that their community of avid Monday-vegetarians consume about 14 percent less meat than the average American, but save the equivalent of 10 billion iPhones charged in greenhouse gas emissions.

For the vegan community to effectively make an environmental difference, smaller, more realistic steps towards a vegan diet must be encouraged. Rather than shaming others and accusing them of moral inferiority, subtle and patient conversation ought to be initiated. In order to make that happen, a welcoming approach involving gradually giving up animal products one at a time should be the vegan community’s advocation, not drastic change. Though changing one’s diet overnight is ideal, it is simply unrealistic, which is something that some vegans should often realize and put into perspective.