The impacts of animal production are often downplayed & those of vegan food magnified.
The status quo is a powerful thing.
Exploiting and slaughtering animals is an outdated, inefficient, and cruel way to produce food, yet it's highly lucrative. Even for those without vested monetary interests, social norms dictate lifelong animal consumption/use while making it taboo to critically challenge this behavior. Despite these obstacles, the vegan movement is rapidly gaining traction, so seeds of doubt and confusion are constantly sown by those clinging to the violent and wasteful status quo. Below are the myths most commonly perpetuated by the non-vegan audience visiting our Facebook page through the years.
Note that these myths are mostly all environmental, as that is our focus. Veganuary has an extensive library of debunked ethical, dietary and health myths about veganism.
Myth: Vegans hurt the planet with soy foods like tofu.
Source: Widely made assumption.
Tactic: Blaming vegans for the damage caused by non-veganism, conflating primary consumption (consuming soy foods like tofu) with secondary consumption (consuming soy-fed animals)
Truth: There's nothing inherently environmentally damaging about farming any type of bean, including soybeans. The damage is caused by growing said bean to fatten up tens of billions of farmed animals, because then an unreasonable amount of beans must be grown.
Think of it it this way. A quarter of all Americans regularly buy hummus, far more than buy tofu. Yet garbanzo beans are not destroying the planet, because they're not being used to fatten up tens of billions of farmed animals. If they were, they too would be destroying the planet, and it would have nothing to do with hummus, or vegans.
The fact is that 85% of the world's soybean crop is used as animal feed (Soyatech). Vegans are not responsible for the animal slaughter industry's eggregious misuse and squandering of soybeans. Primary consumption of soybeans in the form of soy foods (which, unlike soy-based feed, are often organic and non-GMO) respects our planet's ecological limits.
Says WWF, "Limiting consumption of animal-based food products, particularly meat, is one thing people can do to help end this devastating trend [of soybean over-farming]." Note that reducing consumption of animal meat/products, not soy foods, is the effective action.
As We Soy, So Shall We Reap (Gentle World)
Soy, You & Deforestation (WWF)
Explain Like I’m 5: Why Tofu Consumption Is Not Responsible for Soy-Related Deforestation (One Green Planet)
A note about anti-soy health claims: Because soy foods threaten unrivaled meat industry dominance, unsubstantiated health claims against soy foods are made just as often as environmental ones. To understand the ironic, almost paradoxical motivation for soy-bashing, consider the following:
“Because soybeans are high in protein,” explains the North Carolina Soybean Producers Association, “they are a major ingredient in livestock feed.” Wait a minute – aren't we were supposed to eat the livestock animals because they’re high in protein? “Soy foods are cholesterol-free, excellent sources of high quality protein, and they offer a healthy mix of polyunsaturated fat,” brags the Wisconsin Soybean Association, with Healthline noting that soybeans are "fairly high in fiber." But hang on, doesn’t meat have cholesterol and saturated fat, and NO fiber? So we take the beans and add bad things to them that weren’t there before and remove the good stuff? “Animal agriculture is a soybean farmer’s #1 customer.” Gotcha. Guess we won’t ask questions, then.
Due to scientific laws of trophic levels, primary soy consumption of plant-based foods like tofu requires far fewer soybeans to be grown and sold than does secondary soy consumption of meat, milk, and eggs from soy-fed animals. Soybeans are highly subsidized, masking the high material cost of inefficiently cycling them through countless animals rather than just eating them directly. Even though most of the world’s soybeans are consumed indirectly by humans through soy-fed animals, vegan foods made from soy (a far more efficient use of soybeans) are often framed as being inferior, inadequate or unsafe. Starting to see the bizarre paradox here?
Unsurprisingly, this anti-soy fear-mongering originated with meat industry advocacy organizations like the Weston Price Foundation, as explained in the article A Vegan Doctor Addresses Soy Myths and Misinformation, and it spread like wildfire in a society looking for anti-vegan/pro-meat confirmation bias. However, the largest organization of food and nutrition professionals in the world (the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) supports soy as a healthy food staple rather than a "danger," per Clearing Up Confusion Over Soy and RD Resources of Consumers: Safety of Soy.
Per Harvard, 60-80% of the actual estrogen in human diets comes from consuming the lacteal secretions of pregnant or recently pregnant, massive one-ton cows (dairy). Phytoestrogens, on the other hand, are naturally occurring plant compounds (actually more abundant in flaxseeds than soy) that are weak or actually block estrogen’s effects. It's clear that little critical thought has gone into the anti-soy myths that have unfortunately scared many people away from soy-based vegan foods, but not soy-based animal foods – the exact intention of the smear campaign. Please don't be afraid of a bean.
Myth: Almond milk is using all the water.
Source: The very first anti-almond milk article was written by Dietician Tamara Duker Freuman, a paid "media spokesman" and consultant with the dairy industry, and then Mother Jones journalist Tom Philpott, also cofounder of Maverick Farms (which exploits and slaughters animals) built on that and it took off from there after his viral article "Lay Off the Almond Milk, You Ignorant Hipsters."
Tactic: Omitting altogether the much higher water footprint of animal agriculture while magnifying that of almonds.
Truth: It may seem outrageous that a single almond requires about 1 gallon of water to produce (a serving is 23 almonds) – but not when you consider that a single egg requires 53 gallons, a hamburger 660, and a gallon of dairy milk 880 gallons of water to produce.
And almonds are consumed quite sparingly compared to eggs, meat, and dairy, the true water-guzzling luxuries that are nevertheless treated as a main dish. If you are assuming the real culprit is almond milk, there are actually hardly any almonds in commercial store-bought almond milk, with the leading brand estimated to be composed of only 2% almonds.
Some other comparisons:
- A quarter pound of almonds takes 75 gallons of water to produce, and Americans eat an average of 2 pounds of almonds per year. That's 600 gallons of water per year per person in almonds.
- Comparatively, Americans eat an average of 72 pounds of red meat per year, which consumes 133,560 gallons of water per year per person.
- Poultry takes “just” 61% as much water as red meat to produce an equivalent amount. (Sources: UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the USDA)
8% of California's water (recently retracted from 10%) is used to grow almonds (but more, 15%, is used to grow alfalfa hay for livestock feed, which is part of the total of 47% of California's water used for meat and dairy) – not because almonds are so water-intensive, but because CA produces 99% of US almonds and 80% worldwide. they only produce 15% of US and 1.4% of global dairy. No, it doesn't make sense to grow most of the world's almonds in a drought-stricken region – and it makes even less sense to raise animals and grow their feed there. But our individual consumption of almonds, consumed relatively sparingly, doesn't compare to our average consumption of far more water-intensive animal meat, dairy and eggs.
Every single day, each "dairy" cow in California and beyond:
- Consumes 30-50 gallons of drinking water (more than an elephant)
- Consumes 100 pounds of feed (mush of which would have been irrigated)
- Produces 120 pounds of feces and urine
- Produces 260 to 650 grams of methane
All so we can take 6.5 gallons of liquid meant for her last baby calf.
Additionally, cheese requires 10 times the liquid milk to produce; dairy-based Greek yogurt and butter even more.
it's not wonder that Slate's Eric Holthaus concluded that "Replacing a glass of cow's milk with almond milk is a net gain for the environment."
Remember, a vegan diet saves 600 gallons of water per day compared to the average meat-eater, per National Geographic – almonds and all.
Myth: Vegan diets waste available/marginal/perrenial land.
Myth: Lettuce is worse for the planet than bacon.
Myth: Holistic/rotational grazing is the answer.
Myth: xxxx wild bison once roamed the planet, so "livestock" can't be any worse.
Myth: An all-vegan food supply wouldn't feed enough people / would be nutrient deficient.
Myth: Human overpopulation is the problem, not animal agriculture.
Myth: Small local animal farms are the answer, not veganism.
Myth: Beekeeping helps local bee populations.
Myth: Vegans who drive cars/have computers are hypocrites.