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.

When it comes to deforestation, Tofu isn't the enemy!

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? 

Vegan Katsu Ramen
Last night's dinner- A homemade vegan Katsu Curry Ramen. Lip smackingly delicious and far from dull!

3. Veganism can’t be that much more sustainable

How much difference could one change really make? 

A comprehensive study published by the University of Oxford concluded that removing meat and dairy products from your diet will reduce your carbon footprint by up to 73%

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. 

However, a recent study has concluded that a meat-free diet is significantly cheaper, with omnivores spending an additional £645 on food per year

Not only is eating vegan a great way to protect the planet and protect animal welfare, it’ll put pounds in your pocket too! 

Shifting to a vegan diet will put pounds in your pocket.

5. It’s unnatural- humans were made to eat meat

We would all love to think of ourselves as a cousin to the regal lion. Unfortunately, the truth is that in digestive characteristics, humans are closer much closer to rabbits. 

Humans have soft nails, blunt teeth and a digestive system that is actively harmed by the consumption of raw meat. I’d like to see your average steak lover try and devour an antelope carcass. There’s just no way that it wouldn’t end in a trip to A&E. 

Unlike lions and wolves, our bodies struggle to cope with the saturated fats found in animal products. Rather than processing them, they convert to fat that clogs up our arteries. 

This carries negative implications for heart and overall health, making a plant-based diet a smart choice for those who wish to live a long and healthy life. Don’t just take my word for it- studies have concluded that a vegan diet is associated with 21% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 22% lower chance of premature death from all causes.

We can't compete with a big cat's bite

6. Vegans don’t have any friends

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!

Remove the overwhelm by taking it one step at a time. Small changes are still good!

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. 

B12 is created by bacteria in soil, manure and unclean waters.

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. 

It’s also worth taking a look at the statistics- in the US, roughly 40% of the population is B12 deficient, despite only an estimated 0.5% identifying as vegan and a further 2% identifying as vegetarian. 

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.

Pesticides and intensive farming are contributing to rapid soil degredation.

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? 

The number of farm animals on our planet is truly mindblowing. We’re far outnumbered by our four-legged and feathered friends. According to the Economist, the combined total of chickens, cows, sheep and pigs alive at any one time is easily three times higher than the number of humans.

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… 

Vegan Superpowers
Could veganism give you super strength?

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. 

Want to find out more? Take a look at co-founder Duncans radio show: The Great Vegan Debate.

Article written by Alicia Upton

4 comments on “Are Vegans Destroying the Rainforest? 10 Vegan Myths Debunked”

  1. Excellent article. All these arguments are repeated like a mantra in fb discussions. I am wondering if ppl posting them actually believe all this😳

  2. Been vegan for 36 years now, and I'm male, which makes it considerably more difficult to contend with the pathetic criticism from insecure meat eaters who seem to think it's effeminate! I've heard all the same, tired stabs at veganism which would be classed as criminal, were it to be aimed at religious beliefs, rather than ethicl ones, and still see the "jokes" targetted at vegans that would cause outcry if you substituted, "Vegan" with, "Muslim/jew" etc! But it's lovely that veganism has finally been accepted mainstream by the masses, and it's much easier to do than it was even just ten years ago. Think how difficult it was thirty years or more ago!
    Great article, thanks. I do hope it educates a few of the ignorants. Keep up the good work. Cheers. X

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