The economic consequences of veganism - MoneyWeek
Simon Amstell is that apparently rare thing – a vegan with a sense of humour. He is the writer and director of the 2017 film Carnage, a mockumentary set in the Britain of 2067, when the eating of meat and all other animal products has been banned. Young people take the new regime for granted and struggle even to understand the moral order that has passed; older generations examine their consciences and suffer from feelings of guilt as they wonder what kind of monsters they must have been to eat meat, eggs and cheese as if there were nothing wrong in doing so. Amstell’s future Britain is a world in which even the word “veganism” has disappeared, since it simply signifies the cultural norm; “carnism” has instead come in to use to describe the ancestral diet, as well as the extremist ideology that justified it. As Amstell has it, our present-day world is one where it’s normal to suck on the teats of a cow who has had her “babies” ripped away from her and either killed or locked up in pens in the dark. If you prefer to drink beetroot juice instead, you’re the maniac!
We remain some way from Amstell’s imagined future, but veganism is on the rise. According to a report from Waitrose, one in eight Britons is now vegetarian or vegan. A further 21% claim to be “flexitarian” – ie, to follow a largely but not strictly vegetarian diet. That means around a third of Britons are reducing the amount of meat they eat, or are cutting it out altogether. The number of vegans in the UK has grown fourfold in the past four years, from 150,000 to 600,000, according to the Vegan Society. A survey for CompareTheMarket.com found similar figures but put the number of vegans as high as 7%. According to the Waitrose report, about 60% of vegans and 40% of vegetarians had adopted the diet over the past five years, with 55% citing animal welfare, 45% health, and 38% environmental issues as the reason for their choice.
The case for cutting out meatBut are the turnip-munchers right to be cutting out the meat and cheese? George Monbiot, the environmental campaigner, certainly thinks so. The environmental case for cutting out meat seems compelling enough on its own. “Whether human beings survive this century and the next, whether other life forms can live alongside us: more than anything, this depends on the way we eat,” he wrote for The Guardian earlier this year. “We can cut our consumption of everything else almost to zero and still we will drive living systems to collapse unless we change our diet.” According to Monbiot, “all the evidence now points in one direction: the crucial shift is from an animal- to a plant-based diet”.