July 4, 2020

What is this utopia that the extremists campaign for? Would it ever even be possible to diversify human behaviour, push our neighbours and friends to forgo the pleasures of eating animals for the good of all life on Earth?

The environmental realities of 2020 leave human societies with some very crucial decisions to make. Although it is no small challenge to overhaul global diets, significant adjustments may become necessary to ensure future human prosperity. We cannot ignore the deforestation, desertification, pollution, sea level rise, biodiversity loss and countless other global crises as we favour wealth, greed, pride, and inaction.

Many who have chosen to follow a vegetarian or plant-based diet feel that meat consumption is linked to a larger carbon footprint (mainly due to the larger proportion of land needed to support livestock, in growing their feed and providing grazing/pasture land). In fact, in 2019 the UN and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that drastically reducing worldwide consumption of animal products will help curb greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change. Livestock require more freshwater, land, and grain than the calories they provide. By 2050, Earth will face the enormous challenge of providing enough food and freshwater for 10 billion people. Even if one completely ignores the ethical realities of factory farms, the future of humanity depends on a radical dietary change.

If every person on planet Earth adopted a plant-based diet, global food-related emissions would drop by 70%. This could be a massive boon to the economy, as these emissions are valued at more than $700 billion. The diet of a meat-eater requires 17 times more land, 14 times more water and 10 times more energy than a vegetarian’s, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In facing the demographic and environmental realities of our changing world, we must not ignore these remarkable statistics. As we learn to accommodate billions more humans within a planet of already dwindling and poorly distributed resources, any strategy that encourages energy, land and water conservation while saving billions of lives should be the obvious choice.

The populations of our favourite livestock species; cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, goats, etc., grossly outweigh natural ecosystem levels. This was facilitated by removing these animals out of their habitats and sheltering them in human habitats for our own gain. Interfering to such a drastic degree in the population levels of these animals has had a profound effect on biodiversity levels of non-domesticated species, their habitats desecrated to serve the ever-expanding territory of factory farms.

Without the steep subsidies that fund cruel, overzealous slaughterhouses and meatpacking companies which enable them to keep consumer prices absurdly low and continue to profit off of torture, governments may actually be able to subsidize healthy plant foods for their citizens. Livestock subsidies could be redirected towards regenerative farming initiatives, support wildflower replanting efforts to provide pollinator habitats, and fund food programs for the food-insecure.

Additionally, as the over-consumption of meat is linked to heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and obesity, the move away from this diet could save billions in healthcare costs, or trillions globally. Heart disease and strokes alone cost the American healthcare system almost $200 billion annually. It is also worth accounting for the lost economic productivity that the sick populations could have otherwise provided. As a smaller country with a socialized medical system, Canada spends more than $20 billion on cardiovascular disease through direct and indirect costs. With a healthier population adequately nourished by plant foods, countries could redirect the exorbitant health expenditures towards more practical investments. The most vulnerable and poorest communities could be supported by national health and nutrition programs. Reorganizing and redistributing investments in food security could be particularly advantageous to the indigenous peoples of Canada’s North. The Inuit are considered by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food to have “the highest documented food insecurity rate for any aboriginal population in a developed country”. In 2014, almost 47% of households in Nunavut were reported as food-insecure.

Collected savings from healthcare and animal agriculture will not only support the millions suffering from food insecurity but will ultimately fund relief efforts for the negative implications of climate change. We all deserve an egalitarian society that cares for its suffering and vulnerable populations, while providing everyone with the option for a healthier future. This future is not only possible – it will be for the betterment of billions of lives. 700 million people do not need to live on less than $2 USD a day. Our planet has ample resources to provide for sensible, conscious lifestyles for 10 billion humans, we need only adjust our standards of consumption. A better world is possible when cruel, unsustainable, selfish behaviours are left behind. When we value the lives of animals and respect the environment, we can ensure the livelihood of future generations and reverse the catastrophic climate change that would otherwise doom us.

April 5, 2019

By choosing to leave meat off our plates, vegetarians are automatically challenging a huge cultural norm. Many people hesitate when it comes to implementing a plant-based lifestyle because it means changing one of the most fundamental parts of their life – what they eat. As our diets are guided by culture, family and friends, it is no wonder that the majority of people in North America continue to eat animal foods.

The growing popularity of the plant-based movement is an exciting shift for vegetarians. Supermarkets, restaurants, and fast food chains are adapting to the demand with plant burgers, nut-based dairy substitutes, snack foods, and everything in between.

At the epicentre of this movement, Vancouver has been one of the best cities to be a herbivore for a few decades. As the birthplace of organizations like Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd, Earthsave, and The David Suzuki Foundation, this city has more of a green hand than just a green thumb. Yet while the Lower Mainland has its fair share of vegetarians, our society is still entrenched in omnivore values and institutions. From the summer barbeque, celebratory steakhouse dinner, fishing or hunting trips, birthday cake to ice cream sundae parties; eating animals is firmly ingrained in North American culture. So when someone chooses a peaceful path, does it have to be at the expense of involvement in the community?

Where once upon a time to be a vegetarian meant sacrificing a social life for the sake of one’s beliefs, now it is entirely possible to be an active part of the community while standing for an important cause. With the urgency of climate change forcing us to face the realities of our decisions, our society must adapt to a less violent way of life. There are a number of ways to connect with people that don’t involve hurting animals, people just have to be willing to branch out from their comfort zones.

What are good ways to meet other like-minded folks in Vancouver? VVS events and those we share on the “Recommended Events” page are a great place to start. Throughout the summer especially, there are several curated vegetarian or vegan-friendly events; such as the Vegetarian Spring Festival, Vegexpo, Vaisakhi parades and celebrations, cooking classes, and even a Vegan Festival in July. Beyond these celebrations, many Meetup groups in Vancouver organize regular events for members to connect. Barring an internet connection or the funds to attend a class, there are always farmers’ markets! The beautiful thing about Vancouver is that the more connected and sustainably-minded a neighbourhood is, the more likely one is to find other folks with shared interests and dietary preferences.

Another great way to become more involved while “walking the walk” is to volunteer in the community. As Spring planting efforts grow in earnest, many community gardens and non-for-profits are seeking garden volunteers. Fresh Roots, the Environmental Youth Alliance, and Growing Chefs are just a few of the farming organizations that make a big impact in the city, supporting food security and the local economy while saving on transportation emissions. If one prefers the wilder side, The Lower Mainland Green Team, the Stanley Park Ecological Society and the Jericho Stewardship Group all provide opportunities for volunteers to directly help with conservation projects while building relationships.

With all the local events and organizations offering experiences tailored to a vegetarian’s lifestyle and values, the days of the lonely hippie eating kale salad and drinking green juice are things of the past. We must challenge the norms of animal consumption that led to environmental degradation and inconceivable suffering. The more people associate a plant-based lifestyle with fun events, becoming part of a compassionate community, and connecting with their environment, the more likely the movement is to grow. After all, humans are social creatures. We seek the approval of our peers, we want to belong to a group. Why not make the group worth belonging to one that is saving the planet?