Thursday, July 29, 2021

Veganism, Year Thirteen: So Much Good News, So Much Bad

by Neil H. Buchanan
[Note on August 5, 2021: I have now added the Heller, Keoleian, and Rose piece to the list below.]
Each summer, somewhere near the date that I first decided to become a vegan (July 24, 2008), I write one or more of what I have come to call my veganniversary columns.  For those who might be interested, here are the links to previous years' columns: 2020 (plus followup), 2019 (plus followup), 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, and the original announcement in 2008 (plus followup).
With few exceptions, I tend to focus on the day-to-day issues that one deals with as a vegan: challenging conversations from family and friends (and even strangers, who are suddenly quite worried about my protein intake), trends in how easy it is to find restaurants with good vegan food (including, of course, the growing number of exclusively vegan restaurants), the favorable trends in the economics of veganism, and so on.
Often, these columns grow out of my having noticed a news article, commentary, TV show, or movie that directly or indirectly raises an interesting issue regarding veganism.  Sometimes, I riff on columns written by Professors Colb or Dorf, such as yesterday's column by Professor Dorf (which was only partially about veganism).
This year, I have found myself overwhelmed by the number of different possible inspirations that I have come across for the 2021 version of my veganniversary column.  As additional sources of inspiration continued to arrive, I held out hope that I could combine them into a coherent column under a common theme.  I no longer believe that that is possible, or even that it would be the best way to create this year's column.
Instead, I decided to reduce my commentary this year in favor of simply providing links to many of the sources that might each have inspired a column.

The good news is there is so much good news, with veganism being treated more respectfully in mainstream publications (far less "Stay with me here while I describe these loopy Granola types, folks" in these stories), impressive advances in the production of vegan food (in particular the types of foods that people declare to be The Reason that they could never be a vegan, especially cheese), and on and on.

The bad news, of course, is that there are still billions of innocent and defenseless non-human creatures who are being tortured and killed for no good reason.  It breaks my heart.

In any event, here are a few of the articles that I have seen lately that provide interesting insights on the state of veganism today.  I do not endorse everything in each one, of course, but I am listing them here simply to allow interested readers to see what has been written and said about veganism recently.  It is an exciting time.
Tejal Rao, Vegan Cheese, but Make It Delicious, N.Y. Times (April 16, 2021) -- Some things take time to get right!
Brett Martin, The Decadence of the New Veganism, GQ (June 10, 2021) -- Note the positive but somewhat backhanded sub-headline: "Sure, it’s healthy, and yes, it’s ethical, but as some of the country’s most exciting young chefs are showing, vegan dining is suddenly becoming something way more surprising: delicious."  Note also the claim that all the best vegan restaurants are now in New Orleans.

Katie Jones, Vegetarianism: Tapping Into the Meatless Revolution, Visual Capitalist (June 22, 2020) -- A bit more than a year old, but provides very interesting graphics and stats on veganism and its growth.
Danny Friedmann, Factory farming a greater pandemic risk than consumption of exotic animals, South China Morning Post (July 18, 2021) -- We know a lot about bats and Wuhan, but factory farming is the real danger.  (note: paywall)

Laura Reiley, The total health and climate consequences of the American food system cost three times as much as the food itself, Washington Post (July 16, 2021) -- The business of raising, torturing, and killing animals for humans' pleasure creates what economists call externalities on an epic scale.

Ezra Klein, Let’s Launch a Moonshot for Meatless Meat, N.Y. Times (April 24, 2021) -- Even a big-league pundit "came out" as a vegan.  Although he focuses on the environmental/epidemiological case against animal products, he does unambiguously make it clear that he is motivated (as I am) by ethical concerns.
Martin C. Heller, Gregory A. Keoleian, and Diego Rose, Implications of Future US Diet Scenarios on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems (January 13, 2020) -- Just one nugget: "replacing 50% of all animal-based foods with plant-based alternatives [by 2030] ... leads to ... a reduction equivalent to the annual emissions of 47.5 million of today’s average passenger vehicles."

Sherry L. Colb, Should Vegans “Force” Their Children to Be Vegan? Verdict (June 10, 2021) -- When Professor Colb writes it, we all should read it.

Sherry L. Colb, Vegan Food, Cultured Meat, and How to Change Hearts and Minds, Verdict (April 19, 2021) -- As I was saying ...
Happy -- and sad -- reading!


Patrick S. O'Donnell said...

Re: factory farming ... an absolutely essential book is Rob Wallace’s Big Farms Make Big Flu: Dispatches on Infectious Disease, Agribusiness, and the Nature of Science (Monthly Review Press, 2016).

Patrick S. O'Donnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick S. O'Donnell said...

And perhaps some of the more inspired, curious, or avid readers will find some helpful literature in my bibliography for animal ethics, rights, and law, which is found (free to view or download) on my Academia page.