Can vegan food feed us all?

In defending veganism, sooner or later you inevitably run into arguments such as:
“If we stopped eating meat, cows / chickens / pigs / animals would flood the world.”
“The vegan diet, especially fresh, relies on transporting food from other parts of the world. Eating omnivorous and locally is much healthier and more environmentally friendly. ”
“Intensive plant food production is more harmful than integrated livestock farming.”
and finally, “It would be impossible to feed all people a plant-based diet.”

At first glance, only the first is really absurd. If we stopped eating meat, it would mean the end of the livestock industry and the slaughter of animals. They would not multiply, without human help and artificial insemination their numbers would decrease rapidly, some subspecies created by crossbreeding would probably disappear, and over time a new balance would be created within individual ecosystems. If we explain the matter from another angle – how many animal species that people do NOT eat are currently dangerously flooding the world? Pigeons? Squirrels? Bears? Tough question, right?

The remaining three arguments are a little more difficult because they rely on the logic of common sense. It’s hard to argue with locally grown food and even harder to advocate intensive cultivation of anything. After all, many still remember their youth on the farm, many enjoy the goodies from their garden or field, and many are all too well aware that food from the supermarket can never be as delicious as it has just been picked. Not to mention the country of origin; oranges from Spain, bananas from the Philippines, apples from America… when you think of the path he has behind him, a person really quickly gets used to home-grown produce, strawberries from his grandmother’s garden, salads from his own and, why not, eggs from neighboring chickens and the ham of a pig, which, as a well-known Slovenian author likes to say in an anecdote, you “knew personally”.

But common sense logic here too quickly becomes entangled in romantic notions of what ‘once’ was like, and it is also seduced by an understandable fear of mass food transport. Make no mistake – this is not an essay on why local self-sufficiency is not meaningful or commendable. Due to the length and time of transport, food that arrives, arrives or arrives at us certainly loses a share of its nutritional value, or arrives on the shelves immature to maximize durability and profit. In addition, it brings with it dependence on remote producers, weather, economic and political conditions in other parts of the world, and disruptions in the transport chain.

From this point of view, striving for local production makes perfect sense – but we cannot claim that this significantly reduces our impact on the environment. Although it travels thousands of kilometers, it involves transporting large quantities at once – if we buy apples from a farmer who brought 50 kg of apples from his orchard 50 km away, the number of kilometers traveled per kilogram is exactly the same as for 2 tonnes of apples. grew 2000 km away. According to some studies, food transport also accounts for less than 15% of all energy used for food production and processing from start to finish. Let’s say we spend a lot more on cooking.

What about local food, which includes animal products? It can certainly be less harmful than eating meat, dairy or egg products from industrial farming, full of antibiotics and other chemicals, but you can’t do anything good for the environment. In fact, the opposite is true – intensive farming actually consumes fewer resources and causes less damage than domestic farming on a small scale, if we compare the impact in terms of the amount of the end result, be it meat, milk or eggs. And so-called humane or grazing is also more wasteful and more harmful.

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