› I say irresponsible because if the global food systems currently straining on the brink of unsustainability are to be remedied, the challenge cannot be met without the synergies provided by animal agriculture. We’ve temporarily ratcheted up the “efficiency” of modern farming via massive inputs of (relatively) cheap fossil fuels. Whether that can be maintained short-term — much less over generations to come — is very much up for debate.
What isn’t debatable is the reality that all of characteristics of an ideal food production system — efficiency, localization, biodiversity — cannot be implemented without incorporating livestock into the equation.
Nothing converts sunlight into calories more efficiently than livestock, and the capture and utilization of by-products from those animals are central to creating a farming model that optimizes both inputs and outputs.
The basis is biology
In the end, choosing veganism is akin to choosing celibacy, in three important ways.
First, it is a highly personal decision, one that cannot by any stretch of logic be considered prescriptive for society at large.
Second, although there is merit to both choices, neither can be sold to any but a tiny minority of people, no matter how vigorously its advocates proselytize the rest of us.
And third, the basis for both concepts runs directly counter to the most profound biological imperatives affecting every species on this earth. Only people willing to voluntarily eschew reproduction, or those who consciously try to separate themselves from the very ecosystem that sustains us, could embrace either celibacy or veganism.
Neither choice is natural or normal.
Are there aspects of the vegan and/or celibate lifestyle that have merit? Of course, and some would contend that they represent a higher moral stance.
I’d argue that if either concept had gained more than the tiniest sliver of participants way back when, none of us would even be here today to argue about them.
Dan Murphy is a food-industry journalist and commentator