One more reason to eat your veggies. RACHEL GAO/THE VARSITY

From planking to Pokémon Go, this generation has seen numerous fads infiltrate our culture — some of them far-reaching and some of them short-lived. These social trends, though seemingly trivial, serve to depict where social interest lies. Fads, of course, are not the kind of material that is packed tightly into history books or analyzed on the news. Instead, most fads get pushed to the side, deemed to be interesting but unworthy of further investigation.

Yet, what happens when a trend that is worthy of intellectual discussion and debate gets sidelined because of its affiliation with more trivial trends?

Veganism has been unfavourably criticized in recent years on the basis of assumptions made about the people advocating for the lifestyle. On one hand, vegans have often been portrayed as angry activists who consider animal rights to be just as inalienable as human rights and aggressively seek to impose this view on others. On the other hand, veganism has been painted as a somewhat inane dietary restriction, popularized by the privileged upper middle class out of an arbitrary obsession with cleaner and leaner food.

These skewed perceptions cause some to equate veganism with fads like infinity tattoos and excessive indulgence in pumpkin spice lattes. However, discrediting veganism as a mindless trend prevents further exploration of the strengths of the vegan lifestyle.

There are countless reasons why people would seek to cut out meat and animal products from their lifestyles: animal rights, religious and cultural beliefs, and digestive sensitivities or allergies are just a few that come to mind. However, these concerns are unique to individuals rather than the whole set, and they do little to speak on behalf of the call to veganism beyond its niche trendiness.

Instead, let’s look at veganism from an environmental standpoint. A decade ago, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization produced data reflecting the implications of livestock on phenomena such as climate change, air pollution, and water depletion. According to the data presented in the report entitled Livestock’s Long Shadow, the greenhouse gases that are produced when feeding animals and disposing of their waste makes up for 50 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the land use, land-use change and forestry, and agriculture sectors, and 80 per cent for agriculture as a whole. Moreover, livestock accounts for 35–40 per cent of the world’s manmade emissions.

The overproduction of animals and animal products is contributing to the greenhouse gas problem and propelling climate change. Due to the sheer number of animals being produced, a large amount of land must be used for feed crops, and a large amount of water must be used to ensure that the crops produce the food necessary to keep livestock healthy. This prevents land and water from being used for more efficient purposes.

When considered alongside attention to these concerns, veganism is about so much more than trendiness — as such, it deserves to be discussed more honestly than it sometimes has been of late.

At its core, veganism is a means of holding one’s self accountable for the present environmental conditions of the world and actively seeking or facilitating changes that will improve it. Even those who pursue veganism for personal reasons are contributing to this positive change. In this sense, all degrees of veganism are useful, be it cutting out meat or even simply reducing your intake of meat and animal products.

Those who offer censure for the impracticality of veganism should be reminded of other cases where productive practices drew ire before becoming mainstream. There were certainly people who had low opinions on recycling, before it became so ingrained in Western culture as a common practice. Veganism cannot be shelved because of the imagined identities of its advocators, but instead it should be explored and embraced as an idea reflective of our society, our ideas, and our shared understanding of the world.

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