The Good and the Bad of Veganism

Julia Kemp

As a vegetarian who is considering going vegan, I have been researching the positive and negative effects of veganism. I became vegetarian last November when I was assigned the role of carving the turkey for Thanksgiving and, at around the same time, was trying to hatch chicks of my own. I noticed how distanced I was from my food and that, for most of my life, I was eating so many meat and animal products without actually knowing where they came from or how the animals were treated while they were alive. When I carved that turkey and watched a baby chick hatch in the same week, I realized that I should be more aware of the things I eat. I wanted to make a change for myself and find out how I can be more connected to the things I consume.  Firstly, I want to point out that I am in no way saying that everyone should be vegan or that people who aren’t vegan are making the wrong choices. I am only showing the things that I have found and my opinions on veganism. 

When I first contemplated whether or not I wanted to go vegan, veganism seemed like a pretty big and difficult challenge, and I didn’t quite know the best way to go about it. I also didn’t know if being vegan would actually change anything  or if I was wasting my time and my beloved animal products. So, I researched the good and the bad effects of veganism on the body, the environment, and the culture. 

The Body

A study at Oxford took 33,883 meat-eaters and 31,546 non meat-eaters in the UK in order to study their vitamin intake as well as general lifestyle. The study found that vegans consumed less saturated and trans fats,  had a lower intake of of saturated fatty acids,  consumed more mono- and poly-unsaturated fatty acids, and had a higher intake of fiber, magnesium, iron, folic acid, vitamin BI, C, and E than the average meat-eater. Another study found that vegans had a lower risk of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and high cholesterol than meat-eaters and vegetarians. Overall, vegans have been found to have a generally healthier vitamin intake and had better long-term health. However, while a balanced vegan diet is shown to be beneficial for the body, a poorly planned vegan diet can lead to malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies. Some nutrients that unbalanced vegan diets tend to lose are vitamins B-12 and D, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and zinc. If vegans don’t regularly consume those nutrients in their diets, they will have to start taking supplements in order to avoid nutritional deficiencies. 

The Environment

Veganism has been proven to be environmentally beneficial, and many vegans turn to veganism as a way to help the environment and  lessen climate change. One way veganism is good for the environment is through the conservation of water. Agricultural production takes up 93% of the world’s water supply, and meat and dairy production uses a large portion of that water. In the dairy industry, water is used for drinking, cleaning, and cooling, and research shows that a vegan could save 200,000 gallons of water a year, while also avoiding factory farms. Another way that veganism is good for the environment is through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of the meat and dairy industries. Animal agriculture accounts for 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions, making it the number 2 leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions. Vegans, who avoid animal agriculture, would be avoiding an industry that destroys the environment and accelerates climate change. Overall, veganism is good for the environment because it conserves water and avoids an industry that emits a large amount of greenhouse gasses. 

The Culture

90% of vegans choose the vegan diet because of their concern for the well being of animals. A study published in December of 2015 shows that the general attitude towards vegans and vegetarians, specifically those who chose the diet for animal rights reasons, is mostly negative. One theory of why there is a general hatred for animal rights vegans is that those who undergo a difficult and significant lifestyle and diet tend to view themselves as morally superior to other non-vegans. This can be seen in certain online vegan creators such as “That Vegan Teacher” on TikTok, who often shames non-vegans for eating meat and hurting animals, and sometimes compares meat-eaters to racists or nazis. Not every vegan pushes veganism on others, but the general feeling towards vegans is one of negativity and bitterness.

Overall, I think that veganism would be a good diet to choose if I were to make sure that I receive the necessary nutrients that I might be lacking, and that I don’t contribute to the superiority complex that some vegans embody. The health and environmental benefits of veganism outweigh the bad aspects of veganism, and there are steps that vegans can make to avoid those negative aspects.