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Trading beef for beans is not a solution, veganism is

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How can you manage your ecoanxiety? According to The Atlantic, pretend swapping out beef for beans is going to help our planet.

In the ongoing popularization of reducetarianism, author James Hamblin dives not-too-deep into the impact of our eating habits on the environment. The theory at play is that veganism is extreme, and we only need to substitute all the steak and burgers in the U.S. for beans and everything will be fine. I mean, fine-ish for Americans–all animals (including cows) will still pay the price.

The article centres around research done by a team of scientists from Oregon State University, Bard College, and Loma Linda University. They predict this one dietary change could hypothetically lower the U.S. green-house gas emissions enough to stay on Obama’s 2020 targets. They even say this “single-food substitution could be the most powerful change a person makes in terms of their lifetime environmental impact–more so than downsizing one’s car, or being vigilant about turning off light bulbs, and certainly more than quitting showering”. By most powerful, Hamblin must have meant most powerful for someone not really interested in change, because removing all animal products from our lives is much, MUCH more powerful.

The pitch continues by promising this nationwide swap could free up 42 percent of U.S. crop land that is being used to grow feed for cows, which doesn’t feel like a significant figure when it follows a reminder that the United Nations says 33 percent of all arable land on Earth is used for feed. That’s not just for cows, that’s not just for beef, and that’s not just in one country led by a climate-change denier.

Cow-methane has long been spotlighted as the worst of the animal agriculture industry, but any conversation on saving the planet must also include water use, species extinction, water pollution, ocean dead zones, and habitat and amazon destruction. And in case your ecoanxiety isn’t already flaring back up at this point, I’d like to point out that the waste from dairy cows is actually higher than that of cows reared for beef, even though we know dairy cows become beef (among other things). And don’t get me started on the other issues I have with milk. But the lives of animals and the future of our planet shouldn’t be a game of what’s worse, because eliminating some of our bad habits while pretending the others aren’t that bad has gotten us where we are today.

Back in March of 2016, The National Academy of Sciences published their estimate for the climate change impacts that would occur if the world switched to eating a plant-based diet and predicted that eating less meat and more vegetables would “cut planet-warming emissions substantially, and save billions of dollars annually in healthcare costs and climate damage.” Since then, it seems like everyone is desperately looking for a different, allegedly ‘easier’ answer to our problems, whether health, environmental, or ethical. We already have a solution–veganism.

Veganism is the only solution that takes the true victims into consideration, the animals. Sure, we’re slowly ensuring the end of our own species, but that’s got a much longer expiry date than the billions of animals facing the knife today. And that’s not just for the things we eat, but the things we wear, the products we use, and the entertainment we support.

Please do substitute beef for beans, but also have tofu instead of turkey, carrots instead of chicken, and I think you see where I’m going. Finding alliterated swaps for everything is a lot more time-consuming than just reminding people that the only option for combatting what we do to animals, the earth and to ourselves is going vegan.

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