I know that food is a very sensitive topic for everyone, and this makes it really hard to talk about . As uncomfortable as this conversation might be, this comes down to the preservation of our forests and the future of humanity so we need to find ways to discuss this. The subject is really large and no single article can encompass all what needs to be said. I’d like to share my journey, with you and if you have been following me on More Trees Less Assholes, you are already a part of this story. I understand why the word “vegan” in the description alienated many of you, and I’m already grateful that you clicked on the link and made it this far.
I love trees, I love the forests they create and I love the creatures that live in them. My passion for the natural world led me to look for ways to get my voice heard. I wanted to connect with other people who also cared about nature, so I created a community page on Facebook called “More Trees Less Assholes”. I wanted to talk about the destruction of the environment and I wanted to raise awareness about all the issues that our forests face. I thought that I had a lot to say, but very soon I realized that I had a lot to learn. I’ve read messages and comments from many wonderful people, who shared a lot of valuable information and perspectives with me. Without doubt these interactions taught me most of what I learned about the environment . We talked about greedy corporations and their constant lobbying against laws intended to preserve environment. We talked about the fossil fuel industry and their reluctance to cut down their profits in favor of more sustainable technologies. I learned about the barbaric mining practices and I wanted to expose them. Mountain top removal, fracking, tar sands, plastic pollution, soil degradation : the scale of the devastation was truly heartbreaking and it was all way worse than I initially imagined. I wanted to make sense and act upon my convictions. I don’t own a car, I have supposedly “green” electricity in my home and I recycle. I don’t change my computer until it breaks down too badly… I’ve always wanted to do the best that I can to remove any unnecessary burden from my ecological footprint. I wanted to inspire others to do the same, but I didn’t expect that I also had a lot to change about myself.
Cheese or Trees?
Just like most people, I’ve never cut a tree or hurt any animals, but my daily actions were soon challenged by my followers. I started to see more and more information about the destruction caused by the meat industry and the palm oil industry. I saw videos of the slaughterhouses and I saw forests burn to make way for cattle, soy fields and palm trees. It was particularly difficult to look at this information since I couldn’t admit to myself that I had a direct responsibility in this process. I wasn’t killing anything or destroying anything personally, but I was paying others to do it for me. I wanted to blame the industries for these practices, but I wasn’t realizing that I had a big role in the problem. Deep inside I felt some sense of guilt, but I had all sorts of justifications and excuses that I used to rationalize my actions : I didn’t use palm oil directly, I don’t eat as much meat as “those Americans” and cheese and yogurt are literally a part of my “cultural heritage”. Hell, I even saw cheese as part of my personality. I also genuinely thought that I needed to eat animal products in order to survive. Researching on the subject made my guilt reach my conscious mind : the suffering and destruction caused was worse than I ever imagined. On top of this I found out that I really don’t need animal products to be in good health. I also found out that I was eating palm oil every day with the processed foods that I was buying, it was even in my shampoo.
I didn’t just decide to change my diet completely, but I thought that I should try to not eat meat for one day and this turned out to be the last day that I ate meat. For the next year I kept on eating cheese and eggs until the day I saw Cowspiracy. I learned how destructive animal agriculture is for the environment and particularly how damaging it is to the forests. Between 65% and 91% of Amazon deforestation is directly linked to animal agriculture. Furthermore, I also noticed that I acted just like the other environmental organisations, I was ignoring the elephant the room. I wasn’t comfortable mentioning the link between animal agriculture and deforestation on More Trees Less Assholes, because I felt that I can’t ask from others to do what I’m already not doing. I couldn’t keep on running an environmental community, while I ignored the importance of my personal choices. I couldn’t lie to myself and my followers anymore, so I went vegan around two years ago. I knew I loved trees and forests creatures much more than I loved meat or even cheese.
Why vegan ?
Why did I bother to go all the way and quit animals products completely, instead of just reducing my consumption or looking for more sustainable animals products and palm oil ? I’ll put aside the ethical argument related to eating animals, even though I know that my compassion and fascination for animals played a major role. When I understood that I can have a healthy life without meat or animal products it was hard not to see how inefficient it is to eat animals. Animals need to eat much more calories than we do, and the process of converting plant calories into animal calories is not efficient and causes a lot of pollution. By eating animal products I contributed to the destruction of plants, the suffering of farm animals and the extinction of wild animals who are are deprived of their forests. I saw these products for what they are : not as essential for my survival, but rather luxury products that I consume for my enjoyment and because of the culture that I was born in. I realized that whatever I do, I’m going to be eating food for the rest of my life, and what I ate could make a big difference on the scale of my lifetime. It was much easier for me and my consciousness to refuse animal products and palm oil completely, instead of trying to reduce my consumption. By choosing to remove them completely from my diet I had a clear vision of what I found appropriate for myself to eat and what wasn’t. I did the same with smoking: while I knew that smoking less was better then chain-smoking, I still didn’t feel at rest in my mind until I stopped it completely.
Quitting meat and animal products certainly sounds like a very good thing to do if you’re looking for a way to directly reduce your personal impact on the world’s forest. This said, don’t be intimidated to take action even you don’t feel that you’re ready to stop animal products completely. Make place for the awareness in your mind and let it guide your actions. Maybe you’re the type of person that finds it easier to stop it at once, maybe you need some time, like I did. In any case when you realize that you want to reduce your consumption of animal products, you will find a way and replace them with plant based foods instead. Living while respecting nature is not a goal to be reached, but rather an endless journey. I am always looking for new ways to reduce my diet’s footprint further by buying the most ethical and local products that I can afford.
Don’t plants have feelings too ?
Why did I draw the line at animal products? One of the most repeated arguments against veganism is that plants are also alive and that they also feel, so by eating them I still cause suffering. First of all, let’s make it clear: plants and animals are very different and we cannot equate their experiences of life. Plants react to their environment in many extremely complex ways, that we are yet to fully understand. What makes a clear difference though is they don’t have the evolutionary need to experience sensations like pain and suffering. And even if plants don’t have the complex emotions that animals have, I do believe that they should be treated with respect. If we are truly aware of the evolution of life on Earth, we will do our best to respect every living organism, for it is just like us the product of hundreds of millions years of development. We are all together a part of a whole which is the global ecosystem. If we would understand this, we can only try to do our best to be the least of a burden on our forests, oceans and atmosphere. Even if we’re really self-absorbed and completely unaware of the intrinsic value of all plants and trees in particular, we would understand that we literally can’t breathe without them. Moreover, I believe that even non-living things should be treated with respect. Objects like rocks, minerals, metals, oil etc. are really precious and their extraction comes with a high price. We need to learn to see their value and create an economic system that is capable of creating an economy centered around sustainability instead of short term profits.
Changing my eating habits isn’t the end of my journey of environmental awareness. I saw that I could change something that seemed impossible at first, and this gave me the courage to keep on looking for different ways that I could improve my own life and reduce my impact on the environment. I keep on talking and fighting on every other issue that our invaluable forests are facing.