Veganism won’t save the planet

This is a cult of self-righteousness, not a sensible eco-diet.

Patrick West

Topics Culture Politics

Three trends this year have proven that the new religion of Gaia has arrived in earnest: environmental catastrophism, the cult of veganism, and the acceptance of outright hypocrisy.

The first is seen in the emergence of Extinction Rebellion / Cult of Greta, with its heady combination of juvenile sanctimony and rampant exaggeration. The growth of the cult of veganism can be seen in thousands switching to the diet and ‘free-from’ foods; Quorn expanding into the vegan market; the current television advert for Tesco; and in Lewis Hamilton, a hugely rich, one-man gas-guzzler, insisting that veganism is the only way to save the planet.

The third manifestation can be seen in Madonna, Emma Thompson and Harry, Duke of Sussex, all lecturing us on the need to cut our carbon footprint, while stamping it heavily with their penchant for flying a lot. It also takes us neatly back to Lewis Hamilton.

Veganism is routinely championed as the principal remedy to climate change. After all, it is something we can all do on a personal level. Except that, as remedies go, it is snake oil. Sure, livestock disproportionately take up valuable farmland, eat food we could be eating ourselves, and emit much methane that exacerbates the greenhouse effect.

But many popular vegan foods eaten by Westerners often have a huge carbon footprint. Unlike milk, cheese and eggs, staples for the more sensible and sustainable vegetarian diet, which can basically be sourced anywhere where humans live, voguish vegan food – and let’s keep in mind that veganism is mostly a voguish, middle-class diet – is rarely local food.

People in Britain who adopt a vegan diet should be eating potatoes, bread, legumes and domestic vegetables. Yet instead, it is often the case that they opt for foreign foods, such as pomegranates and mangos, which are flown in from India; and also lentils from Canada, beans from Brazil, blueberries from the US, and goji berries from China. The demand for even more fashionable foods, such as avocados and quinoa, which come from South America, has pushed up prices to such a degree that people in their country of origin can no longer afford to eat them.

Instead of flaunting your virtuous credentials, or indulging in medieval public displays of self-flagellation and piety, there are other, more practical means of reducing one’s carbon footprint — ones that don’t involve drastically changing our lifestyles and keeping the world’s poor trapped in poverty. These involve furthering electric-car technology, which has in this decade at last increasingly become a viable alternative to petrol and diesel; burying carbon underground; advancing laboratory-produced meat, which will free up millions of hectares of farmland for the growth of crops; refraining from using the internet when you don’t need to (the internet is responsible for roughly one billion tonnes of greenhouse gases a year, or around two per cent of world emissions); wearing more clothes instead of turning up the heating; and even drinking Carlsberg beer that now comes in paper bottles.

None of this will please the purists, however, who are fundamentally waging a war against modernity, and who seek to banish anything that ‘doesn’t really address the problem’. Rather, veganism will remain popular because it is a handy means for whining, complaining and shrieking. It is passive-aggressive showing-off.

Catalonia, the EU is not your friend

Whatever your opinion on the Catalan independence movement, few of us who have seen the scenes from Barcelona this week will have failed to be appalled by the behaviour of the Spanish police in their crackdown on Catalan independence campaigners. It is like 2017 all over again, when police from Madrid weighed in to disrupt the unofficial Catalan referendum, cracking many skulls.

Just as in 2017, the European Union is conspicuous by its absence of action or denunciation in the face of such brutality within its borders. It has been silent for the same reason that it hasn’t denounced the violent actions of the French police against the yellow-vest campaigners. The EU supports the integrity of the French and Spanish states at all costs, because it feels threatened by any movements that might destabilise the integrity of the EU itself.

The Catalan independence movement, for so long fervently and naively pro-EU, believing that it would deliver it from Madrid rule, learned a harsh lesson in 2017. The Catalans are being reminded of it again now (we Brits received a similar lesson in 2016): if you want to change the system, the EU is not your friend.

Lahore Times, 20 October 2019

Imran Khan widely praised by the British public for ‘dressing in traditional English clothes’ on his visit to the UK

On his state visit to Britain yesterday, President Imran Khan was widely lauded by the British public for ‘dressing in traditional English clothes’. As he stepped off the airplane at Heathrow Airport and on to the tarmac, Khan was greeted with raucous adulation by the Brits there assembled, on account of wearing a pin-striped suit and bowler hat, carrying an umbrella and a copy of The Times. His traditionally British ‘funny walk’, which came to the world’s attention on account of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, was also received with tears of joy. ‘He’s just like a true Brit today’, said Bert Orwell, 46, from Billericay. ‘Ow lawd gawd, bless ‘im!’

President’s Khan next port of call will be the famous East End of London, where he intends to tour the area dressed as a veritable ‘Cockney Sparrow’, wearing a ‘pearly king’ outfit while playing the spoons. His next visit will be to Newcastle, where he plans to forgo any clothes at all above his waist. Then on to Glasgow, where, on the sartorial advice of funnyman Frankie Boyle, formerly of the television show Mock The Week, he will compose himself as an incomprehensible, wife-beating, racist alcoholic wearing a string vest and braces.

Not everyone has been entirely happy with President Khan’s decision to ‘dress up like an Englishman’. Veteran left-wing campaigner and journalist Mungo Krankenhaus called it ‘blatant, patronising and demeaning cultural appropriation’. Mr Krankenhaus continued: ‘How would Pakistanis like it if a British state dignitary came over to their country and dressed up in their so-called “traditional clothes”?’

Addressing Mr Krankenhaus’s concerns, a Pakistani government spokesman told the campaigner to ‘just shut up, you stupid, white, lefty bastard’.

Patrick West is a spiked columnist. His latest book, Get Over Yourself: Nietzsche For Our Times, is published by Societas.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Michael Airton

2nd December 2019 at 7:27 pm

Your analysis regarding veganism is fundamentally, logically flawed.

“Veganism” means simply eating food only from plant sources, and excluding foods from animal sources. Certainly, the consumption of certain plant-based foods can be problematic, depending in large measure on how much energy is expended to transport them halfway around the world to where they’re being eaten. But that’s a human behavioural issue. A vegan who eats only locally-produced plant-based food avoids that problem, such as it is, entirely.

Which pretty much kills your entire argument that veganism, as a dietary philosphy, is “snake oil”.

Baked Beans

23rd October 2019 at 9:25 pm

“veganism is the only way to save the planet”
Eating vegetables oneself instead of having a ruminant do it for you will not reduce so-called ‘greenhouse’gas emissions as you yourself will be the emitter, blowing of as in the well known poem: –
”Beans, beans good fot the heart,
the more you eat the more you ph*rt
The more you eat, the more you ph*rt,
The more you ph*rt the better you feel
So eat your beans at every meal!

Marvin Jones

21st October 2019 at 10:37 am

This insanity engulfing the 21st century must be proof that a section of the human race has reached the end of their evolution stage, and are now are hell bent on mutating back towards the cave dwellers of the past. There must be an uninhabitated section of this planet where they could become extinct without causing Armageddon to progress into the future.

Bridget Jones

20th October 2019 at 9:38 am

The climate protesters appear to be participating in some sort of performance Art. I wonder what carbon footprint the Arts make? You can make a good case that they are an unnecessary indulgence that should be the first to go if the planet were really in serious peril as they claim. That is something most of us enjoy in some way or other that we all can sacrifice for ‘the greater good’. Oh hang on I forgot it’s for “others” to give up their pleasures without impinging on the protesters aesthetic energy guzzling activities isn’t it.

Broccoli Smith

19th October 2019 at 12:18 pm

A large percentage of meat is imported.
A large percentage of grain to feed our own livestock is imported.

This is not a very clever article.

Jim Lawrie

19th October 2019 at 10:25 am

“… furthering electric-car technology, which has in this decade at last increasingly become a viable alternative to petrol and diesel” It has not. We have hybrids, not electrics

A 200 mile range electric only car costs c.£36,000. The electricity comes from fossil fuels in power stations with woeful waste percentages in terms of unused heat and transmission loss, compared to power generation at source in an internal combustion engine.
The figures for electric cars assume the only load is the driver. They will add hugley to emissions as result of their production, and the scrapping of perfectly good cars.
Electric cars are far heavier. They are artificially cost advantaged because there is no road fuel tax on the electricity, and no road tax on the vehicle.

The mileage figures given assume no air-con, fans, heating, radio etc … No charging your phone.
The mileage figures given are not achieved in the real world. Charging beyond 80% capacity increases the charge time to snooze time.
You can just about do London to Glasgow at 45mph in a £77,000 Tesla if when you take a break there is a charging point available. The extra emissions from the slow down and braking of other vehicles will be greatly exceed the feel good, faux drop in emissions from your green motor. Drive at 70mph and you are looking at 2½hrs stoppage time. In the winter you can use a built in exercise bike to keep warm and eke out the electric.

The carbon footprint of all the new infrastructure and scrapping of the old is incalculable.

There is zero prospect of buses, lorries, planes and trains being run on electric motors only. Nor cars. It’ll be buses and lorries in the fast and overtaking lanes, and cars on the inside.

Gareth Edward KING

18th October 2019 at 6:07 pm

I’m surprised that Patrick West takes a ‘change to a vegetarian diet’ as a ‘sensible’ option. What is the point of undoing the agro-industrial complex? or re-thinking ‘how we eat’? It seems to state the obvious that we’ve come along way even since the 1970s. Food is generally plentiful, abundant and more or less reasonably-priced, at least in the West. Oh yes, I can remember the diet I was brought up on in the English Midlands, it was boring, narrow and generally ‘unhealthy’, whatever that is supposed to mean: Heinz beans on toast, jam or ham or egg sándwiches, sausage butties, bread pudding (well, that was fine) and roast meat and salads on Sundays. Surely, the main issue has to be is why so many young people are so taken up by consumerist issues? which is what a concern about one’s diet is. It’s so thoroughly conservative, small-minded and intolerant! Get a life oh do!

Ven Oods

18th October 2019 at 11:01 pm

“why so many young people are…”
Insufficient exercise, too much social media and to many Domino’s pizzas (even the vegan ones).
However – you don’t think intensive farming has thrown up enough food crises lately?

Boyden Osborne

18th October 2019 at 3:00 pm

If we stop growing Pigs, Sheep and Cows, where’s all the fertiliser going to come from? Our farm used to have pig muck which increased yields by around 20% Are we to rely on millions more tons of artificial fertiliser which main ingrediant is erm…. Nitrogen. and comes from factories, which bi-product is CO2. I saw an article today with an extinction rebellion vision of a car free development. Think you’ll find labour had already tried that one in the 90s called ECO towns, they never made it off the drawing board and are now replaced with the standard development model. I know this because i live in Rackheath, which was to have an ECO town

Jim Lawrie

19th October 2019 at 10:43 am

I had two self-described , semi-vegan chicks (yes, I know) as visitors to my houses who couldn’t eat my tatties because of the smell and sight of the manure that had been spread on them.

They would eat meat if it had once been running wild and free but were too squeamish to eat a rabbit they had seen being skinned. Funnily enough, one of them was intensely interested in the shooting of the wee bunnies, which were dispatched because they are vegetarians that eat my vegetables.
The girls were Scandinavians.

Kenny Mackenzie

18th October 2019 at 1:35 pm

“Sure, livestock disproportionately take up valuable farmland, eat food we could be eating ourselves,..”
No, they don’t – what sort of a business model would that be? They primarily eat plants/parts of the plants we can’t eat. High time Townies on both sides did some basic research before presuming to make pronouncements on the subject.

Ven Oods

18th October 2019 at 11:03 pm

“what sort of a business model would that be? ”
The sort that requires taxpayer-funded subsidies?


19th October 2019 at 6:27 am

Actually they eat a lot of soy beans that are grown in the Amazon, which has suffered a crisis due to it being burned to clear land for both the crops to grow animal feed and to make room for cattle crazing.

Alan Burdon

18th October 2019 at 12:58 pm

The idea that you can simply switch from grazing cattle to growing crops is a typical city person’s ignorant response.
Much grazing land is designated thus because it is not suitable for arable cultivation. Grass can grow on land that is too stony for equipmemt to survive or is chemically unsuitable for crops without copious quantities of other chemicals and fertiliser to flourish.
As for saving the planet. Before humans proliferated so much, vas swathes of our planet were grazed by countless millions of animals. The A,erican bison is such a one of which there is only a tiny proportion left of its original numbers, while the cattle that now graze those lands are nowhere near as numerous.
If the previous herds didn’t fill the atmosphere with methane how come our present, much smaller’ herds are so demonised for their contributions?

Warren Alexander

18th October 2019 at 12:02 pm

There’s a so-called Farmers’ Market close to where I live. One of the stalls advertises its Vegan Burgers. Now, if beef burgers are made of beef, lamb burgers are made of lamb and chicken burgers are made of chicken, what are vegan burgers made of?

Ven Oods

18th October 2019 at 11:05 pm

Soylent Green?


18th October 2019 at 11:54 am

>>there are other, more practical means of reducing one’s carbon footprint<<
Spiked really needs to maintain consistency of policy on this issue. There's no hard evidence that 'carbon' is a problem, but otoh tons of evidence that it's beneficial

Mike Ellwood

18th October 2019 at 1:57 pm

Or even much evidence that there is a “greenhouse effect”. (For one thing, real greenhouses are enclosed – our atmosphere isn’t).

One thing that’s always bothered me, as I evolved into a CO2-induced-warming sceptic (not that I had ever been much convinced by it, although I considered, and consider, myself an environmentalist in other respects), was the politicisation of science, and that seemingly, the only sceptics were on the political right, where I definitely don’t feel comfortable. Seemingly, on most of the sceptic blogs, they think that all climate alarmists are communists. I don’t think that, not that it would bother me overmuch if they were. What I do think is that they (alarmists) are mostly scientifically ignorant and have been misled, or allowed themselves to be misled, partly out of prejudice against the likes of “big oil”. I don’t particularly like “big oil” myself, as it happens but I don’t believe in lying about the science in order to get one over on people that I don’t like.

Science should be sacrosanct. Which is not the same as saying that science is perfect, because it obviously isn’t. Partly because science is carried out by human beings, and all human beings have faults. But mainly because science is a continuous process of asking questions and interpreting data, trying to reconcile the answers they get with the theories they have come up with, and ever-refining the theories. It is a dynamic process, so to say “the science is settled” is just a meaningless mantra. Especially with a complex, multifactorial chaotic system like the climate.

Anyway, until recently, the only scientific sceptic whose politics were obviously on the left was Piers Corbyn, who is probably more left-wing than his brother, Jeremy (although he is very loyal to Jeremy, judging by any references to him that I have heard). I was therefore pleasantly surprised to come across Ronan Connolly

who places himself on the political left, is a PhD, and, together with his father, Dr Michael Connolly, has come up with good scientific arguments against the climate alarmism “consensus”. Interestingly though, he too is disturbed by the political partisanship over the issue, and is actively working to overcome this, e.g.

Here is their blog aimed at the lay person (which hasn’t been updated for several years):

Here is one of their papers which they say disproves the greenhouse theory:

Claire D

18th October 2019 at 11:44 am

Try recovering from an operation or childbirth on a vegan diet.

Lord Anubis

18th October 2019 at 12:28 pm

Try weaning a baby on one!

Claire D

19th October 2019 at 5:51 am


Baked Beans

23rd October 2019 at 9:12 pm

Feeding a cat a vegan will save you money in the long term as puss will quickly die.

Cody Bailey

18th October 2019 at 10:57 am

I am confused. We have to stop eating meat because cow farts yet we are going to start running our cars on unicorn farts? How is that supposed to be an improvement?

Turns out TANSTAAFL.

As for all of the virtue signaling going on, think about it like this: If you have to tell people you are an adult or smart or funny or talented, you aren’t. If you have to tell people you are virtuous…..well, you get it.
I see a lot of virtue signalers destroying other’s reputations and careers or in the streets setting fires, smashing windows and doling out unprovoked beatings.

Lastly cultural appropriation is the greatest thing that has happened to the human race in history. Decrying it as some kind of sin is turning reality on its head.

Cody Bailey

18th October 2019 at 10:05 am

*Picks up ribeye with bare hands, folds it in half and takes a big bite*

Hmmm. Quinoa and Avocados? Y’all can have them.

Is it proper to post recipes here? Just for fun I will put one up, if you try it you will thank me later.
Best recipe for Turnips: Take all of your turnips, rinse them off and put them in a bucket. Carry bucket out to pig sty and dump over the fence into a trough. Do this every day for a year, occasionally adding some corn, potatoes, quinoa and a few avocados. At the end of the year rub pig generously with Cajun rub, put him on a spit. When the pig is nearly done brush with 2 parts ketchup, 2 parts apricot jam, 1 part Worcestershire and 1 part Tabasco. If you like you can put a few splashes of pineapple juice in as well.
Invite everyone.

D Dom

18th October 2019 at 10:42 am

“At the end of the year rub pig generously with Cajun rub, put him on a spit.”

Cody Bailey

18th October 2019 at 11:20 am

I use a 22lr. Instant lights out.

I didnt make the world, I am just trying to live in it.

Dominic Straiton

18th October 2019 at 8:21 am

Electric cars in this country are natural gas and wood powered cars. In Germany they are coal powered cars.
The English national costume is the suit and tie invented by Beau Brummell. It has been expropriated all over the world when men want to be taken seriously.

A Game

18th October 2019 at 9:37 am

So Imran is doing a Justin Trudeau… what’s wrong with that? You know… live it up in the local threads. All those female politicians when over in that neck of the woods, suddenly find all these dashing headscarves.

I find your vegan section grating. I can’t be bothered saying why.

Thcotland, I’m assuming, is paying hard attention to Catalunya? How Uncle EU loves a wee, independent state? And that’s one with great finances.

A Game

18th October 2019 at 9:39 am

Oh, I meant this to be a free standing post.
But right on, Dom S, right on.

Mike Ellwood

18th October 2019 at 2:05 pm

Not quite. See

As I type this, there is about 18% nuclear, 16% wind, and 3% solar. (44% gas, 3% “biomass”, <1% coal).

Of course, the solar will go to zero, and will never be much over winter, and the wind could drop at any time (although to be fair, most times when I look at it, it's about what it is now, though we did have a windless period recently).

Your essential point is correct though: electricity is only as "green" (stupid word, really) as its source.

Mike Ellwood

18th October 2019 at 2:06 pm

( “solar will go to zero at night”, is what I meant, of course).

Dominic Straiton

18th October 2019 at 6:53 pm

“wind” what does that even mean.Id say its green crap for the blowing about of nonsense out of Attenborough’s fundament. God i wish that walrus had landed right on his dull head.

Stephen J

18th October 2019 at 8:11 am

Why are my comments being removed?

Stephen J

18th October 2019 at 7:47 am

Patrick West wrote:”Sure, livestock disproportionately take up valuable farmland, eat food we could be eating ourselves, and emit much methane that exacerbates the greenhouse effect.”

As I have commented on Spiked before, this is false. The reality is that mismanaged livestock might cause these effects, but progress is not linear, sometimes something from the past gets missed and an assumption is made that is 100% wrong.

In the past before structured farming, our grasslands which cover two thirds of the planet, were managed by vast herds of bison, gnu or other wild bovine creatures. Their sheer weight as they move across the land, which they have to do because they defecate indiscriminately as they feed and sour the grass, turns this years grass into fertiliser for next year’s grass. Without this movement, the grass sits on the surface and chokes the underlying new growth, which then rots… and Bob’s your uncle crusties and vegans tell us we are all going to hell.

No! It is just that if you kill the wild herds, you have to replace them with something else. Structured animal movement, making them behave as they would if the herd was vast and wild instead of small and tamed, such as a subsistence farmer might work with.

Dr. Allan Savory from Zimbabwe has for the last fifty years been honing a system which replicates those wild movements, and low and behold there is no “climate change effect” anymore!

So as is often the case with ignorant lefties, the opposite of their stated case is the truth, but they are so convinced that they will not listen to him. His coursework and books are available across the farming world, but the morons from the green brigade are actively hostile.

The truth is…


Lord Anubis

18th October 2019 at 2:13 pm

The problem here is that traditional mixed agriculture/ranching is not capable of providing sufficient food to feed north of 8Bn people. It takes intensive, industrial, agriculture to do that. The fundamental problem is too many people. Going vegetarian/Vegan may well allow intensive agriculture to temporarily reduce pressure on the environment, but it will only take a decade or two for population growth to use up this breathing save and then we will be back where we are now. Veg/Vegan is not going to save the planet/environment because eating meat is not the problem. Consider for a moment, what would happen if oil went up to $1000/Bbl. The wheat prairies of North America (And other places too) would revert to cattle ranching. Even in the UK, large areas currently subjected to intensive arable farming would revert to mixed farming or even three-field methods. Global food production would plummet and very large numbers of people would starve. It is not possible to have vegan/vegetarian arable farming without the intensive use of energy hungry technologies. And it is also not possible to have organic farming without the use of livestock. Of all the things that are fundamentally unstainable, Vegan living has to be right at the top of the list. (And I haven’t even started on the implications of having to rely solely on animal free clothing and footwear)

Stephen J

18th October 2019 at 4:54 pm

If you have a look at the video that I referenced, you would understand what I mean by eating more meat.

What Savory knows, rather than theorises, is that the apparent shortage of land, or overpopulation as you put it, is due to human mismanagement of the land following the human decimation of the world’s great herds.

Under his land management system, which can quickly be understood by some of the least well educated people, the more animals, the better.

In other words, what appears to have been caused by overpopulation and climate change, is in fact easily curable and is neither of those things, it is just poor human management. They have thrown the baby out with the bathwater, and we are now turning to religion to solve it, because that is what we are being sold at the moment.

Climate change is a settled fact and extinction rebellion are its high priests. You must appease the gods with a vegan diet. As you and others point out, that is genuinely damaging for the environment.



19th October 2019 at 6:39 am

You do realize you don’t need to eat animals for them to create manure… they could be allowed to live a normal life span instead of being slaughtered, typically the moment they are full grown. Manure also isn’t the only way to naturally sustain healthy soil.

Jim Lawrie

19th October 2019 at 11:06 am

Stephen J political correctness around culling has caused in the North of Scotland overpopulation of deer. I’ve seen various species stripping bare trees and bushes along the banks of the Caledonian Canal, road verges and graveyards, which are often on steep land up here, held in place by root systems.
The SJW’s have no idea of land management, care nowt about deer starving to death, but do not want them rounded up and shot. There are vast tracts of forestry up here that could be given over to a mixture of fuel trees and livestock like Rudolph.

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