Ben Webster Environment Editor
Gerry Gajadharsingh writes:
“It’s amazing how social media can influence people, both in a positive and negative way. As Trump is always telling us “it’s fake news”. Just because we read it on social media, it doesn’t mean it’s true. Our health is a consequence of our beliefs, as these “feed” our lifestyle behaviour, especially in dietary terms. There is no doubt that if social media were to be believed, everyone and their aunt are now vegans, mostly because of perceived ethical and health benefits. The research below suggests that in the UK vegans account for less than 2% of the population, and of those who follow veganism long term it’s less than 10% of that, so 0.2% of the total UK population.
Over the past few years we have been seeing increasing numbers of patients, especially of young people, adopting veganism. The biggest problem is that their dietary choices of protein are simply too limited. Proteins breakdown into amino acids, there are 8 essential amino acids, i.e. the body cannot produce them, so we HAVE to get them from dietary sources. Amino acids produce enzymes, every reaction in the body is mediated by enzymes, they produce certain hormones such as thyroid hormones, they produce neurotransmitters and they are the building blocks of structure and repair. Eating a variety of proteins ensure that adequate essential amino acids are available to support our physiology and the easiest way is to include animal protein in our diet.
I think you can be a good vegetarian, but it is difficult, most vegetarians I know eat too much starch and not enough vegetables and again have inadequate dietary protein and fat.
With vegans I suspect that it is different. As I suggest in my previous blog there are some “outliers” who seem to cope with veganism, but I suspect it is extremely difficult to follow a purely vegan diet and get adequate dietary protein for the majority of the population.
I suspect the middle ground is easier for most people i.e. there is nothing wrong with following a plant-based diet a few days a week (perhaps even better for you than a diet full of too much meat).
Whilst the article is about the meat industry fighting back against veganism and therefore the content is to be expected, I think it has some fair points. We are free to choose what we wish to eat based on our beliefs, I just hate it when I hear about the vegan activists harassing meat eaters. When the long-term consequences of veganism are known about (which maybe positive or maybe negative) then perhaps we can have a sensible conservation.”
After years of being harried by activist vegans, the meat industry is fighting back.
Livestock farmers are being told not to panic about the rise of veganism because it is a passing fad for many young people who are merely following the latest fashion.
These temporary vegans reject all animal products as “a badge of identity or a tribal marker, much like identifying . . . as a ‘gym bro’ or ‘craft beer nerd’,” according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.
The body, which promotes the farming industry, disparages veganism in a report entitled “The rise of plant-based food products and implications for meat and dairy”. It says: “By claiming their credentials as a vegan, young people believe this shows the world they are ethical, healthy and environmentally aware . . . They have taken to Instagram to follow vegan celebrities and lifestyle bloggers such as Big Gay Vegan and Deliciously Ella. In fact, the growth of veganism has partially been fuelled by the growth in Instagram.”
The report suggests a plant-only diet can be unhealthy and that its environmental benefits have been exaggerated.
The board says veganism attracts a disproportionate amount of media attention but remains a “minority interest”, with vegans only 2 per cent of the population. Long-term adherents are even more of a minority, with only one in ten vegans having followed the diet for more than ten years, according to market research quoted in the report. It suggests vegans are at risk of anaemia and may not get sufficient nutrients, especially iodine, critical for the developing brain of the infant in pregnancy.
“Vegan is not a shorthand for healthy and we don’t yet know what the long-term impact of full-blown veganism is on a larger population in the West,” the report says. The board also attacks “pseudo meat” products made from plants that try to replicate the appearance of meat, such as by using beetroot juice to make veggie burgers “bleed”. It says, “some of the manufacturing processes involved are far from natural”.
The report says the meat industry should be more concerned about the rise of “flexitarians” who try to reduce their meat consumption and account for about a fifth of the population. But it reassures farmers that meat and dairy remain “cornerstones of British diet”.
Overall meat consumption has risen since the mid-1980s from about 62kg a person a year to 73kg. There has, however, been a decline in consumption of red meat and a rise in chicken.
The board says the industry can keep people eating meat by building consumer trust, including by improving the welfare of animals. Better taste, texture and aroma would also help because plant products struggle to replicate these qualities, it adds.
The Vegan Society said there was an “obvious bias” in the report. A spokeswoman said: “Platforms like Instagram have helped people see veganism for what it really is: a compassion-driven attempt to live an ethical, sustainable and healthy lifestyle without contributing to animal suffering.” She said a “well-planned vegan diet” was healthy for all ages.
A meat industry source said it planned to fight the rise of pseudo-meat by paying bloggers and high-profile chefs to draw attention to how highly processed much of it is.