Are Vegans Destroying the Rainforest? 10 Vegan Myths Debunked
By Alicia Upton on 12/01/2022
I've been vegan for 6 years now- around a quarter of my life. I've rolled my eyes at every vegan joke (aside from the ones I make, which are, of course, hilarious), politely declined endless bacon butties and seen an old friend try to eat a chicken leg behind a teatowel because she didn't want to offend me. I can really say I've seen it all.
This Veganuary, I'm tackling some of the big questions I've been asked about my food choices, and some misconceptions I held with before trying a plant-based diet for myself. I hope that it inspires you to try something new!
A quick note: The Bangers and Balls team is not exclusively vegan. While we may not all share the same views, we recognise that discussions around food are the places we can really revolutionise our lives in the kitchen. Whether we're talking about seasonal eating, or how our freedom to forage is affected by race, we want to enable important discussions and challenge the way we think about what we eat.
1. Vegans are destroying the rainforest
The shocking truth is that more than 8 million hectares of what was once rainforest is currently used for soy production. That’s roughly the same size as Scotland.
The finger can be all too swiftly pointed at those tofu munching, soy sucking vegans. The cheek- I thought they were supposed to care about the planet!
The truth is that 77% of Soy produced annually is consumed by animals- the huge majority of which are farmed for human consumption. So vegans really can have their (egg-free) cake and eat it.
2. A vegan diet is tastebud-numbingly dull
I’ll never forget visiting my friend’s uncle's house for coffee, and him asking them to open the door so I could get out to nibble on the grass. Contrary to popular belief- vegan’s don’t just eat rabbit food.
There’s an abundance of deliciously healthy, and well, less healthy but equally delicious options available for the modern vegan.
All companies, big and small, seemed to have picked up on the growing vegan movement and started to cater to plant-based diets. Whether you fancy a cheeky Nandos, a Michelin star meal or a homemade spag bol- I promise you, you won’t be without something truly delicious.
The truth is that the only barriers to a vibrant and exciting diet are a lack of imagination and an unwillingness to try new things. So this Veganuary, why not expand your comfort zone and try something new?
Furthermore, they calculated that if everyone stopped consuming these foods, global farmland use could be reduced by up to 76%- an area equivalent to the size of the US, China, Australia and the EU combined.
So if you’re passionate about the planet (or even just like living on it), it’s worth considering a shift toward a plant-based diet.
4. Veganism is expensive
It’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing veganism as expensive. Government subsidies and supermarket regulated pricing often means that a pint of milk is cheaper than a bottle of water. By comparison, plant-based milk alternatives can seem like a luxury.
When it comes to veganism, there can be a heated debate. Safe to say, not everyone’s a fan.
The stereotype that vegans are preachy, militant and intolerant to contrasting lifestyles is rampant. In the early days of my vegan journey, I worried that my dietary choices would put me in a box that I didn’t identify with.
Aside from the odd vegan joke, I am glad to report that this hasn’t been the case.
Restaurants the world over are looking to capitalize from the vegan boom, meaning almost every restaurant, from Wagamamas to KFC have a vegan offering. There’s no need to feel excluded from social events due to your dietary choices.
I’ve found myself in a position where I can answer questions my friends may have (a few of whom have also made the switch after realising a vegan diet didn’t have to be dull) and share my favourite dishes at dinner parties and pot-lucks. People have approached my dishes with delight and curiosity, and sometimes not noticed the difference at all!
I can’t promise your Great Uncle Terry won’t poke fun at you for popping a Linda McCartney sausage on the BBQ, but I can promise that you won’t lose your pals.
7. You have to be perfect to do any good.
There’s no getting around it, change is hard. Shifting something as foundational as your diet can be intimidating, especially when there’s family involved.
The truth is that you don’t have to be perfect. There’s no vegan police force waiting to shame you for enjoying a Snickers. Even if you’re making the shift to a vegan diet, it’s important to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Starting with small swaps (why not try an oat latte?) or choosing one day a week for your family to eat plant-based will still help the planet and your health. Co-founders Imogen and Duncan are trying meat-free Mondays- why not join them and give it a go?
Veganuary exists to help you explore the possibilities of plant-based foods without feeling the pressure of long term commitment. So why not get involved and try out that recipe you saw on Pinterest, or turn your culinary creativity to veganising a family favourite. If you’re in need of a hand, head over to our Facebook group- we’re here to help!
8. B12 is a Vegan Issue
An important part of any diet- be it vegan or omnivorous- is ensuring your daily nutrient needs are met. When it comes to Vitamin B12, it can be a complex issue.
B12 deficiency is among the largest nutritional concerns for vegans, as it’s most commonly found in animal-based foods.
Soil degradation (due to over-farming and pesticide use) has led to a dramatic reduction in the B12 in our soil.
This, combined with more thorough washing of our veggies means that whatever B12 our ancestors would have consumed via vegetables is now negligible. My mum always said that a little dirt was good for you!
This isn’t just an issue for humans, animals are feeling the pinch too. Higher levels of indoor rearing and soil degradation have resulted in 90% of B12 supplements produced annually being fed to livestock. So whether you decide to take your supplement, or would rather your food took it for you, it should be a consideration for us all.
To ensure your B12 needs are met on any diet, you can take a supplement (like a tailored multi-vitamin), eat fermented foods such as tempeh tofu, or consume fortified food such as alternative milks and cereals.
9. If we didn’t eat farm animals, they’d go extinct
What would happen to animal populations if we stopped breeding them for meat?
There’s no question that these animals are an essential part of our ecosystem. Cows, for example, create nutrient-rich fertilizer and stimulate new plant growth by grazing.
However, deforestation for ranches, tonnes of soy-based feed and methane emissions show that the naturally symbiotic relationship these animals had with the land has been disrupted by our excessive consumption patterns.
Rewilding projects such as Knepp Estate are challenging the way we see cows, by introducing them to the land as wild and valuable animals. As part of the rich ecosystem, they help to boost biodiversity, restore our natural spaces and protect the planet by increasing carbon capture.
To argue that the primary purpose of these animals is as a food source is reductive and ignores their wider environmental context. In the face of the escalating challenges of climate change, we need to re-examine our relationship with these creatures to ensure a future for us all.
10. Vegans don’t have superpowers
Anyone who’s watched Scott Pilgrim vs. the World will be in on the secret Big Beef doesn’t want you to know: vegans just might have superpowers.
Anyone who knows me has likely been awed by the super speed at which I can read through a list of ingredients or the acutely trained tastebuds that let me know whether it’s non-dairy or something scary. These talents just come with the job.
Unfortunately, I can neither confirm nor deny whether or not we can speak to animals, or shoot laser eyes. That’s something only a vegan can know, so there’s only one way to find out…
Join millions of families across the nation this Veganuary and try something new. Each change- from trying a meat-free Monday or giving oat milk a go- is a revolutionary act that will protect the planet and keep your families diet exciting.
If you’re looking to experiment, why not try a few of our favourite vegan recipes? We’ve got everything from Naughty Not-ella to Smashed Sprouts with Spicy Miso Mayo (coming soon). Sign up to our mailing list today to have mouthwatering seasonal recipes delivered straight to your inbox.