I’m not a vegan. There, I said it. I love the planet and I try very hard to be as sustainable as possible. But there’s no denying that some of my choices do harm the planet. By purchasing and ingesting animal products, I’m supporting an industry which harms the environment. Maybe I’m not shouting it’s praises from the rooftops, but I am putting my money into the industry.
It’s the same when it comes to fast fashion. I know the ways in which it’s harming our planet and our people, so I no longer support it with my money. Instead, I buy second hand, wear what I already own, and upcycle old items.
I think it’s important to be aware of agricultural pollution and animal cruelty within agriculture. Because it is true. Animals are subjected to poor, inhumane treatment in battery farms. As sad as that makes me to be aware of, I have my reasons for not turning to veganism.
This is the questions I posed to my followers on Instagram and Twitter yesterday afternoon. The majority vote seemed to be “yes, you can”. I even had a few people reach out to discuss their feelings via DM. A lot of people felt similarly to myself, in the sense that they felt veganism was seen as a “free sustainability pass”.
What I mean by this, is that veganism can come across as the ULTIMATE way to be sustainable. I can see why, don’t get me wrong. Agriculture is one of the leading causes of global pollution. However, I’ve met vegans who have that sense of superiority, but they also smoke 10 cigarettes a day. It seems very counterproductive.
I hate the idea that in order to be passionate about sustainability, you also have to follow a certain diet. Those two things are not mutually exclusive in my mind. I also don’t think that a diet alone will solve our problems. It’s gone far beyond that at this point. Yes, it could help. But veganism isn’t a “one size fits all” solution.
While I’m not going to go into great detail here, I’m going to give you a brief rundown. I’m someone who’s struggled with my eating habits since I was about 11 years old. I was constantly comparing myself to my peers – especially when it came to eating habits. While I haven’t got a diagnosed eating disorder, I have struggled with disordered eating.
This makes it extremely difficult for me to ‘cut out’ certain food groups. I’m currently working on eating intuitively, and so far that’s working for me. I don’t feel restricted, I’m not dieting (for the first time in many years), and I still consume animal products.
There have also been a few (very minor) health reasons behind my choice not to go vegan. Last year I found I was getting quite ill on a regular basis whenever I ate meat, so I stopped eating it. Cutting it out was easy when I knew it was something causing me physical pain. However, a few months down the line my symptoms came back.
So too much meat made me ill, and no meat made me ill. What now?
I found the best solution for me was balance. I have everything in moderation, and my body has been thanking me for it. Nobody knows your body better than YOU.
I don’t think this debate has a right answer. There are many reasons why someone may or may not choose to be vegan. I think it’s an amazing choice (if you are able) and I applaud all who do. There’s no denying that meat and dairy consumption is damaging our planet.
But I’m not going to make myself feel guilty. I believe that I can still make eco-conscious choices, without sacrificing my mental and physical wellbeing.
At the end of the day, nobody’s perfect. I think it’s dangerous to adopt an “all or nothing” attitude. I’ve seen countless tweets saying “you can’t care about the environment if you’re not vegan”. It’s simply not true. All of the sustainable swaps I’ve made aren’t automatically discounted because I’m not following a vegan diet.
I don’t think there’s any way to do sustainability perfectly. This was the entire reason I started up the #ecoconfessions tag over on Instagram. To have an open dialogue with the low-waste community, and showcase that despite our best efforts, we can’t always be sustainable.
If you’re unable to go vegan, here’s a few things you can do instead to reduce your carbon footprint.
Meatless Mondays. This is a non-profit campaign encouraging people to ditch meat every Monday of the week. The reasons behind this are both health and environmentally focused. It was set up by Sid Lerner back in 2003 in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Support local and buying organic. If you’re going to consume animal products, I believe they should be as sustainably sourced as possible. You also get to support small businesses, which is great!
Take part in Veganuary. This is a organisation inspiring people to try the vegan diet every January.
I'm Elen Mai, the brains behind Welsh Wanderer and 20-something human biology student from (you guessed it) Wales! Welsh Wanderer is designed with the eco-conscious adventurer in mind. So stick around for tips & tricks on living sustainably.