Vegan or Local?
Having spent the better part of a year living on an island, I've come to learn a great deal about my relationship with consumerism, energy consumption, waste reduction, recycling, and the environmental impact of seemingly trivial decisions. I've also learned that the multitude of reasons for my veganism are challenged by the unsustainable nature of many of the vegan food products I enjoy eating. If my primary motivation for being vegan is to support the wellbeing of our beautiful planet and her creatures, am I then able to make decisions that support this intention while living on an island?
Surely the answer is yes, but it gets complicated.
Let's look at local cow's milk vs. packaged nut milk as an example.
Local cows wander green pastures, eat lush vegetation, and enjoy a simple life amidst the vast beauty of the island. Hippy farm hands milk the cows and bring it to market. Seems happy enough. Yet, the mother cows still needed to have a baby, and have that baby taken away, to create her supply of milk. If male, that baby is probably sold for meat. A female baby will be forced to give birth, ultimately having her baby taken away in a tragic cycle in which the final product is the milk, cheese, butter, or yogurt we buy. And it's not really great for our health IMO. Hopefully it's sold in a glass jar that we can reuse or refill, reducing packaging and supporting a local business.
AND farmers often kill other animals to protect their own. Cattle farmers killing Wolves. Raccoons dying at the hands of farmer's protecting their chickens for example. I don't want to eat an egg if it comes with the blood of raccoons. 😧
Then there is the vegan option of almond milk. The nuts were probably grown in a severely drought ridden region of California, processed, packaged and shipped to the island through various forms of transportation running on fossil fuels. The bees that pollinated the almond trees were probably imported from abroad and shipped back after pollination leading to additional death and adding to the carbon footprint. The water was probably pulled directly from the ocean and desalinated through an expensive and laborious process. Or the water may have been stolen from other parts of the country preventing local people from having access to their own water. And now I have a package that I may or may not be able to recycle.
Coconut milk is even more delicious and environmentally damaging, often coming all the way from Thailand and filled with unhealthy stabilizers. I could go on.
Some of the foods that had become staples of my vegan diet suddenly revealed themselves as major contributors to larger industries of exploitation and over-consumption, with impressive international travels. Coconut oil, olive oil, chia seeds, quinoa, tofu, tempeh, walnuts, cashews, cacao, etc. A lot of these things coming in plastic or non-recyclable packaging which ultimately makes its way to a landfill.
I LOVE these foods.
But is my purchase really in the best interest of the planet? Or would using a cup of local cow's milk from a glass jar be a more sustainable option? BUT which option truly causes less suffering on a GLOBAL scale? Ideally, I would only consume vegan things grown and produced locally, but that would be extremely limiting here. I may try harder at this. It needs a little focus to work with the choices when choosing to eat gluten-free, organic, and vegan.
I love food ❤️ and I want to be able to enjoy a bit of flexibility in this area, but I really don't want to cause harm to this beautiful planet or her creatures.
Every time we buy something, we are casting a powerful ballot, directly supporting the ethics and processes of that product/business. What companies are we voting for? What processes are we allowing to thrive?
If everyone was a conscious and moderate meat eater would we have to have the "extremist" veganism movement? If we all supported local businesses and farms, our communities would thrive and Amazon would shrivel like a salty slug.
Here is my truth: I don't have all the answers, but I feel that asking these questions is important. I don't want to eat the meat of any animal that I wouldn't be able to kill myself. And I'm not into killing animals. I'm also not into supporting the exploitation of indigenous people by supporting the robbery of their ancient grain (quinoa, Google this situation if you're not privy). I'm also not into eating just local carrots and apples all summer.
I feel that simply having an awareness of our purchases is a major and important step in the right direction. Choosing locally grown and seasonal produce when we can. Choosing to support businesses that are trying to do the right thing by taking care of their employees and growers. Choosing to eat a diet focused on fruits and vegetables and sourcing organic free-range meat locally if you must. Choosing to consume less and buying fewer products with plastic packaging. Choosing the option that feels best for you, for the planet, for the animals/people that helped get that food to you. Choices.
What are your thoughts? Where do you stand? Who do you vote for with your wallet?
Homework challenge: Look at the label of everything you buy next time you go shopping. Try to buy things from your state/region/country. Pay attention to the packaging, buying items without plastic when possible. Noticing how far that item traveled to get to you, and then what ever you choose- giving gratitude.