The bigger question about veganism — and indeed any personal choices to limit your environmental impact — is:
DOES THE SIZE OF MY ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT EVEN MAKE A DIFFERENCE WHEN OUR INDUSTRIES AND GOVERNMENTS ARE WRECKING THE PLANET?
This actually boils down to being a question about political strategy because the short answer is no, not really.
One government, even acting alone, could make huge and rapid reductions to a society’s environmental footprint that would dwarf the impact of whether you eat cow or oat milk.
Indeed, Rebecca Solnit, Bill McKibben and others have suggested that oil companies created the whole concept of the ‘carbon footprint’ to foist the responsibility for climate chaos onto individual lifestyle choices in much the same way that convenience food companies created the ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ campaign to blame consumers for discarded packaging.
Worrying about the size of our measly personal carbon footprints means that we don’t have any spare time to bring down oil companies and the governments they fund.
But — and this is where political strategy comes in — planet-wrecking industries and governments (especially our government) won’t make any significant changes unless they feel an unstoppable movement from below.
That’s where our choices come in. We can create demand for the right thing through the lifestyles we choose. A vegan diet is a respectable lifestyle choice in a way that it simply wasn’t thirty years ago.
(Yep: every word in that sentence links to a recent story about our coal-free future.)
So, coming around full circle, I do think there is value in learning about and experimenting with low-carbon lifestyles, whether that’s by going flight free, getting on your bicycle more, or by eating a lot less meat and dairy.
But that shouldn’t — it must not — stop us from storming the Bastille.