Hephzibah Anderson in Prospect:
Ultimately, motivation is irrelevant—who cares if companies are merely pursuing the vegan pound, or if some self-declared “vegans” are self-obsessed wellness slaves ditching dairy for vanity’s sake? If they’re part of a movement that might help slam the brakes on impending environmental doom, then they are surely a force for good.
But are they? A 2019 Imperial College study did find that your diet is where you can make the biggest difference. The trouble is, while certain facts are indisputable—for instance, the amount of soya fed to a cow to produce a litre of milk is several times that used to produce a litre of soya milk—the more granular the focus, the murkier the picture becomes. Industrially-farmed soya is one of the worst crops in any quantity because it’s what is known as a monocrop, one that is planted in the same field year after year, causing soil depletion and also enhancing vulnerability to famine, Irish potato-style. So, sure, you’ve embraced a plant-based diet, but if you’re indulging every week in jackfruit tacos, prefer almond milk to oat milk, and aren’t yet sick of avocados, then your diet is hardly carbon-neutral. Even fruitarians have been found to have a high environmental impact.