May 2008

A vegan driving an SUV has a smaller carbon footprint than a meat-eater on a bicycle.

Nandor Tanczos at Canterbury Uni today.

Christina commented:

Rats! All my biking and not using cars is in vain :(

Nato commented:

I disagree.

Matt commented:

With Christina, or Nandor?

Nato commented:


Jody commented:

Maybe these are American stats? Reminds me of the Steve Pavlina (the most growth oriented individual you will ever meet) comment that you used a while ago about being vegan.

If you eat less meat, drink less milk AND ride a push bike when possible, you are bound to be doing something good. Unless you are putting recycling in the rubbish. Then we are all DOOMED.

Nato commented:

Yeah. In New Zealand, (some of) our farming has two factors that tend to make meat an alternative that isn't soo bad. First, we don't usually grain feed our animals, we pasture feed animals. Second, we have a decent amount of hilly farms, which tend to make growing crops difficult.

My general argument against the veganism is a better source of food thesis is that food is not just about energy, but it's also important to consider nutrients. Sure, we could all grow potatoes, and grains, and just eat all our complex carbohydrates, and from an energy perspective, we'd be sweet (it'd also be sweet if there were lots of simple carbohydrates). But that's hardly healthy. So there's more to food than just getting energy.

In a similar vein, you've also got to consider the effects of agriculture on land; From what I know, you can keep grazing cattle / sheep indefinitely, whereas growing crops often sucks the land of nutrients, so farmers have to give land a break every so often, and plant plants that help the land regain nutrients.

So this makes me think that in a perfect world, peoples diet would consist of a small amount of animal products, and a large amount of plant products. The animal products provide a readily available source of nutrients, but you don't need to go overboard. Animal products would be produced where it's hilly, where the soil quality is poor, in moderation, not being grain fed.

Jody commented:

Sure, veganism would suck if it was just about eating what could be fed to cows to grow them: potato and grain. But omnivorism would suck if it was just meat. And even if it were just meat and dairy and eggs.

We all need marmite and chocolate (dark) and raspberry licorice. And some other stuff, but those are the main ones.

We don't need meat or dairy. However I accept swapping meat for tofu does not solve all the world's problems.

Christina commented:

Marmite and chocolate and raspberry licorice? I like your kind of food pyramid :) I would, perhaps, add hops to that list. As in, beer. Because despite being a sophisticated woman cough, I've found there is nothing quite like a pint with friends every now and again. Hah - if I just drank beer would I be vegetarian? :P

Nato commented:

Jody, Upon rereading, I realized I should have clarified the bit about not being healthy by just eating potatoes. My point was to demonstrate energy isn't the sole consideration for nutrition. Arguments that veganism is better for the environment primarily rely on arguments based on energy.

Jody commented:

Christina: beer alone, so long as it hasn't been clarified by fish oil or egg, will make you vegan! So what are you waiting for? Get cracking with beer and buy an SUV.

Nato: fair enough.

Fraser commented:

You know, I read somewhere that, consumed in sufficient quantity, potatoes have all the necessary nutrients to sustain life. If you don't mind a bit of scurvy.

Aeonsim commented:

@Fraser Possibly but I'd bet it would be a short life and an interesting death certificate "Died of Potato poisoning". Eating enough potato to get the requirement of trace elements would probably result in a fatal excess of the more common stuff.