Blade to Plate – Is Veganism Slowly Killing You, and the Planet?

Think your vegan diet is saving animals, the planet and the eco-system? Maybe being vegan is more of a fad than a harbinger of real change, says our columnist Yohann

Words Yohann J Setna

I have always been a die-hard meat-eater. Only few things in life give me more pleasure than a hearty meat-centric meal. Having said that, I am also a salad and vegetable lover and eat at least some salad or veggies every single day! A well balanced diet is genuinely the happiest lifestyle of all. Having lived in Mumbai for almost all of my life, I am very accustomed to widespread vegetarianism, and I have always accepted it as either a religious preference or just a lifestyle choice. Recently, however, the vegan movement seems to have taken off across the globe, with more and more people choosing to follow a plant-based diet.

Their reasons vary - some say it makes them feel healthier and full of energy, others say it’s because they are against the slaughtering of living creatures. And then there are some who even claim that their culinary choices are helping to save the planet. Well, I’m here to say that they are all mistaken or being misled. Here are some of my reasons.

The vegan diet tends to include a lot of beans and grains. They are full of protein and fibre, and therefore are very good for you. However, these same beans and grains are loaded with a substance called lectins, which are a naturally occurring protein. These lectins do perform a number of healthy functions like regulating the immune system, fighting off bacterial, fungal and viral infections, as well as have some anti-cancerous properties. However, when consumed in regular and large doses, these same lectins act more like a toxin in the body and contribute to health issues like leaky gut syndrome, autoimmune problems, and inflammation. Since these lectins help molecules and cell to stick together, they can attach to the intestinal walls and cause all kinds of digestive issues. The worst lectin foods are potatoes, red kidney beans, eggplant, soybeans, lentils, bell peppers, wheat, peas, tomatoes, peanuts and corn. 

To those vegans who claim their lifestyle choices avoid the slaughter of animals, I say this - this use of arable land provides ample food for all humans, but it takes away the daily meals of billions of wild animals such as rabbits, bees, rodents, turkeys, earthworms, and endless insects, and it destroys their habitat, family structure, hunting grounds, and nectarines. Not to mention the terrible slave-like conditions that many farm workers in the field are subjected to. Humans are animals as well, you see. The entire wild ecosystem is completely interrupted by our incessant and constant tillage and badgering of all arable land. I don’t believe in any way that a vegan diet actually causes less suffering in the long run than any other diet. All annual agriculture provides fertile ground for the casual and heartless extermination of hundreds of species of animals on a yearly basis. 

If we were to include all of the animals harmed in the grand scale of agriculture, including the invertebrates and not just the large mammals, we would have to conclude that cultivating the land is the most murderous of all activities. Instead of clustering around a moral high ground, I would like to encourage us all to accept the fact that life feeds on life, and to examine the real and important differences between regenerative agriculture and the chemical and GMO-based agriculture that now dominates the landscape, with unclouded eyes.

One perfect example of this ‘profit-centric’ agriculture is the situation caused by the ‘superfood’ avocado, which has been hash-tagged over 10 million times on Instagram. The rising demand and prices for avocados in the US is fuelling major deforestation in Mexico. Mexican farmers can make much higher profits growing avocados than from most other crops, and so are thinning out pine forests to plant young avocado trees.

The least harmful foods to eat come from perennial plants, and the animals that eat those perennial plants. The synergy of cows and grass can hardly be bested as an ideal system. If the primary goal of veganism is to reduce suffering, then many of us are vegan, and a diet composed of primarily grass-fed beef and dairy, as well as free-range chicken eggs and perennial plant products, is the most vegan diet that I can think of.