Recent headlines about a study that suggests going vegan would save 8 million lives and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% has, as expected, brought out all the haters: all the haters of plant-based diets, but especially of vegans.
Cue the chorus of excuses found in the comments sections of articles on the aforementioned study:
“Animals are meant to be eaten.” (Even if this were the case, animals are not meant to be abused, enslaved or exploited by us, which is what happens because of the nature of the food industry.)
“So do plants’ lives not matter?” (What do they care about plants’ lives when they don’t even care about animals’ lives or welfare? Plus, if they really cared about plants, then they wouldn't be eating meat in the first place since 136 million rainforest acres are cleared for animal agriculture, particularly for cattle-raising. Furthermore, plants aren’t fully sentient beings with sensory organs. I LOVE Vegan Rabbit's counterarguments to this annoyingly common question posed by non-vegans and non-vegetarians.)
“Eating vegetables would still require deforestation.” (It doesn’t take a math whiz to know that growing plant foods for people requires less land than what is required to raise animals for food: they take up both private and public lands, and require land to grow feed crops. According to U.S. Department of Commerce, Census of Agriculture, “While 56 million acres of U.S. land are producing hay for livestock, only 4 million acres are producing vegetables for human consumption.” And, similar to Vegan Rabbit's counterargument to plant sentience, two wrongs don't make a right: cutting down trees to grow vegetables doesn't make cutting down trees for animal agriculture any better.)
“That stat is inaccurate so I’m going to keep eating meat.” (Unless they’ve done their own study and arrived at a grossly different number, to dismiss this altogether is nonsensical. They would rather ignore common sense and scientific reports than consider the claims and changing their diets.)
“That is a biased report put out by vegans.” (While the study is theoretical and it’s unknown whether or not the four researchers who published it are vegan/vegetarian, their statement regarding greenhouse gas emissions is supported by other scientists including the former chair of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.)
People generally don’t like to be told or reminded that their choices and actions have negative consequences. They don’t want to be removed from their comfort zones. They don’t want to change their habits or be inconvenienced. (Why else is the weight-loss industry so big? People prefer convenience and shortcuts, not lifestyle changes.)
That’s why even with all the documentaries and reports coming out lately about how meat consumption is the number one driver of species extinction, no excuse or defense will be spared by the meat-eaters, including those who consume dairy, egg and seafood.
The concept of meat consumption causing species extinction will probably unfold the same way climate change has. There will be a lot of resistance and denial, but more and more people will slowly begin to accept that it’s a real issue, as its symptoms become increasingly evident and can no longer be ignored or dismissed.
Just like climate change, only time will tell who stands on the side of truth on this issue. I would rather err on the side of caution, because it’s not just about one person’s life at stake. If the naysayers turn out to be wrong, then their misconceptions will compound the threats to what’s really at stake: the planet, its species and the ecosystems that sustain us.
And by then … it may be too late.