Should Saving the World Be All or Nothing?

Veganism or environmentalism? Finding the delicate balance between the patience and assertiveness required to make an impact.

Photo by Allie on Unsplash

“A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practicable — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals, and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” — The Vegan Society

A definition of environmentalism:

“[…] this fragile earth deserves a voice. It needs solutions. It needs change. It needs action. Some people look at a forest, and all they see is lumber. But there are millions more who see a home, a heritage, a future. Around the globe, we are standing up for our communities, and we are holding governments and corporations accountable. Whether on the streets or at the ballot box, we hold the real power when we work together.” — Greenpeace

Although it is near impossible to live in modern society without indirectly contributing to pollution or the harm of animals, there’s nothing wrong with trying your best.

Environmental and Ethical Pros and Cons

Let’s do a brief rundown of what each movement has and lacks.

  • Environmentalists who hunt.
  • Environmentalists who advocate for the welfare of wildlife, pets, and endangered animals while consuming farm animals.
  • Vegans who dismiss human rights issues because “animals have it worse”.
  • Vegans who are dismissive of unfair labour conditions and production methods of popular vegan staples.
  • Vegans who push polluting, synthetic fibres as alternatives to animal-based materials.
Photo by Jinen Shah on Unsplash

Environmental vs Vegan

Despite their shared aim, there are some solutions environmentalists push as “green” solutions that vegans would not stand for.

Militancy vs Imperfection

Both ideologies are broad and diverse. No two vegans think the same or have the same specific set of values and priorities. The same can be said for environmentalists.

Cognitive Dissonance

After some research on the realities of factory farming, something clicked in my brain so that I could no longer register meat and dairy as food. When I pass a butcher’s and see cuts of meat displayed on the counter, I see only dismembered body parts of a being that was once alive. The smell of fresh meat grows sickly as it mixes with aromatic seasonings that cannot sugar-coat it as appetising anymore.

Every Little Helps…?

Does the same necessary harshness apply for those advocating for environmental lifestyle changes? Not to the same extent. Some advocates have the knowledge and discipline to reduce their waste output almost to the “zero” benchmark. A notable example of this achievement is Lauren Singer.

The Art of Whataboutism

It is easy to argue that “environmentalists are either vegans or hypocrites”, or that “veganism isn’t [always] as environmentally friendly as you might think”. These are legitimate concerns on both sides. But, what is the point of using these concerns as to argue: “gotcha’, you may as well dig into a steak or invest in the fracking industry since your ethical lifestyle doesn’t solve all the worlds problems”?


Whether you’re an environmentalist or a vegan or both, you are simultaneously doing well and need to do more. Needing to do more is not a personal attack, for we all need to, and protecting animals and the planet has little to do with our egos. At the same time, being brought up in a consumerist culture where eating factory farmed animals is the norm desensitises us. Acknowledging this and making changes is a gradual process. No matter how perfect you think you are at ethical/sustainable living, there is always more to be done.

Novelist. English literature student. Vegan. Cat lady. Neurodivergent. Chaotic Sagittarius.

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