The often repeated statement “most important for the climate is being vegan” is simply untrue.
Industrial meat and dairy production (as opposed to natural farming) are a terrible crime in endless ways, there is no doubt about it. I have not (consciously) eaten a piece of meat in 40 years because I simply find it disgusting. And yes, a lot needs to be done on a global level about the giant problems that come from abusive farming, dairy and meat “production”. But if we speak about our individual contribution against global warming, our diet only has a microscopic impact in comparison especially with air travel. I want to poke right into the ugly open wound of our “yogic lifestyle”.
Meat has always been eaten by many, many species on the planet – including humans – without causing global warming. Meat consumption is just a very logical part of the ingenious recycling business that our whole ecosystem is. If humans decide to stop eating meat… well, there’ll be more for other meat eating species and bacteria in the end. All meat on the planet will ultimately be eaten by someone. Should we keep “producing” meat in masses? Better not, for endless reasons, ethical and ecological ones. But should we blame small farmers who never ever fly in a plane in their whole life for “having” a “family cow” and a few chickens? What would they eat in winter? They are not rich enough to steal the peppers, tomatoes, avocados and cashews from all over the world like us!
On the other hand there may not so many machines that can burn fossil fuels faster than a jet. Even worse: There is hardly anything less important than travelling. It is certainly and sadly enough only one of the many problems that our wealthy lifestyle causes (heating, electricity, concrete, steel). But air travel is distinct because it has the highest impact on the climate per individual by far. It is also distinct because we can most easily do something about it. We can simply stop it without losing anything.
Only an estimated 200-300 Million humans ever fly. Us. And most of us global destroyers only fly because we want to feel good about ourselves and are obscenely rich (by definition, simply because we can afford to burn lots of carbon without satisfying any fundamental need).
On the other side of the equation all 7.5 billion humans must eat and not many have the choice that rich Westerners have (as always at the expense of the ones who also face the consequences of our greedy western lifestyle most).
All CO2 emissions from global food production (including meat) combined are roughly equivalent to the emissions of a small, global, air travelling elite. One side of the equation is needed for survival (food). The same amount is caused just for fun. Air travel emits 100% fossil CO2. On the other hand cows can be raised practically without using any fossil fuels (in fact that’s how most farmers in the global south still do it). Thus meat production is often times climate neutral. Air travel is never climate neutral.
In many areas on the planet there is no ecological alternative to meat consumption because you can simply cannot grow or import tomatoes and peppers in many regions of the world without wasting giant amounts of energy. Animals on the other hand can effectively transform inedible grass to food for humans without any fossil fuels or fertilizers (that are normally fossil derivates, too). Also they improve the soil and keep ancient eco systems intact. And some might even be happy about our protection from predators.
The question is: Who is worse, the meat eating local farmer in Thailand or you sitting at the beach, enjoying life, sipping on a vegan organic super-smoothy and judging the farmer?
I often receive hateful responses whenever discussing with “veganists”. I am mostly vegan myself. But this is nothing to be proud of, if at all it is a “better than nothing”. But thinking this helped against climate change is a joke. It is simply nothing as long as we do not stop air travel.
The whole point is: Ultimately, we have to do BOTH, and a lot more. But air travel is first. We have to begin taking responsibility for our actions. Otherwise there is simply no hope for billions of humans now and in all future.
If you would like to make a true difference regarding your CO2 footprint:
- Stop air travel. At least for a year, another one, forever.
Simply understand how cruel it is to destroy the future of all beings on our planet just for the fun of a small global elite (us)!
- Then convince all your friends to stop as well
They probably all travel by air. Let us multiply our impact
- Stop consuming avocado-cashew-acai-super-smoothies that are worse than regional meat
- …. Then bit by bit take your time to reduce shopping, heating, lessen energy consumption etc. etc.
But forever: Stop (!!!!) blaming the diet of others and stop feeling superior about yours.
Before repeating usual urban “alternative facts” from your filter bubble again and again (I keep hearing the same lies again and again): Simply check out your own CO2 footprint and see what a horrible difference your typical flight agenda makes. https://uba.co2-rechner.de/.
Just enter your flights and see the tiny difference your diet makes. This is an easy to understand summary (data from 2019, much, much, much worse during the pandemic because of the mostly empty planes):
All these numbers are per passenger. Multiply it by the number of passengers in each jet!
Facts are the foundation of meaningful communication: One return flight Berlin to Bali emits more than 6 tons of CO2-equivalents per head. With 200 passengers that is 1200 tons of CO2. For fun. Just one plane.
Just a few thousand jets on the whole planet emit as much CO2 as ALL food production!
On the other hand by being a vegan you may potentially save 6 tons of CO2 in 10 years. But only if you have been the worst type of meat eater before and eat only seasonal regional vegan food all those 10 years. That is cabbage and potatoes in every winter. If you have been a vegetarian before anyhow you can – at best – save 2 tons of CO2 in 10 years.
All CO2 calculators reveal that the most terrible meat eaters are often climate saints in comparison with us. Just because they do not fly as much. In fact most humans on the planet never ever fly in their lives. Let them eat what they want. They deserve whatever they can get.
Many of us are vegan long distance travelers. Us urban hipsters are the real climate killers. We must stop blaming others as long as we need to change a much bigger problem: Ourselves and our glamorous Yoga industry.
How often have we flown in the past decades? How often have we told all our friends how great it was here and there?
How many beach pictures have we posted on social media? All that is our karma.
Non-harming and truthfulness are supposed to be our yogic DNA.
We must stop believing and promoting lies that simply make us feel better about ourselves but do not require any self-inquiry.