Veganuary is a growing trend over the past number of years, with over two million sign ups since its' launch in 2014. Veganuary challenges participants to go vegan for the 31 days of January, and indeed even beyond. The vegan diet has gained a lot of traction recently, as many environmentalists blame the agricultural (more specifically the beef) industry for the rising amount of greenhouse gases, and they search for more 'environmentally friendly' food solutions. While it may be correct that the agricultural industry has been responsible for a large proportion of the methane emissions, one is taking a very simplistic view if they are to say that the agricultural industry is definitively bad for the environment, and veganism is the solution to this issue. I fully accept that large scale, intensive agriculture is causing severe harm for the environment, particularly through the large volumes of methane emitted from cattle, however, the vast majority of farmers are willing to take the appropriate steps to alleviate the high levels of methane produced by animals. As well as that, it would be very remiss of someone to simply look at this point in isolation. Instead, a much more nuanced discussion is necessary, taking into account a variety of other factors that also impact the environment, not simply greenhouse gas emissions.
As opposed to 'Veganuary', we are advocating that individuals instead try 'Regenuary'. Regenuary is the concept that consumers source their food from farmers who adopt regenerative farming mechanisms. Regenuary involves eating seasonal produce from farms that have that lower, or even beneficial, environmental or social impacts. The organic farming mechanism that we adopt on Beef Bros farm is an example of regenerative farming, whereby animals, plants and wildlife can co-exist within natural, low intensity grazing systems which do not require any artificial fertilisers. By allowing animals, plants and wildlife to co-exist, regenerative farming is enabling ecosystem restoration, returning vital nutrients and minerals back to the soil to ensure the health and viability for our farmlands for years to come.
Veganism has gained a huge amount of advocates over the past few years, with many followers citing their motive for adopting the diet as environmental concerns. One must question the logic, and indeed ethics, as to why we drive up demand for industrially grown soya, maize, and grain, all of which require large volumes of fertiliser, herbicides and pesticides, while we are simultaneously demonising sustainable forms of livestock that protect the viability of our soils through returning vital minerals and nutrients to the soil. A 2015 report from the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation stated that globally, 25 to 40 billion tonnes of topsoil each year are lost to soil erosion, mainly due to intense ploughing and cropping (i.e. planting of industrial soya, maize etc.). In fact, topsoil depletion is so severe that some experts warn that we may only have 100 harvests left. Couple this with the fact that the majority of vegan products incur a huge amount of food miles, which results in a substantial amount of carbon emitted into the environment, one can not argue that veganism is a sustainable solution to the environmental issues generated by the agricultural industry.
The solution, in my opinion, is a form of regenerative farming. We should be promoting sustainable forms of beef and dairy production, with an emphasis placed on free roaming and grazing animals being able to co-exist with other forms of wildlife and plants. After all, our entire ecological system evolved with large herbivores free to roam as they pleased. Free roaming and grazing cattle have been part of our planet for thousands of years, and their interactions with wildlife promoted life, as opposed to destroying it. Regenerative farming is paving the way forward for a sustainable future, one where roaming animals, plants and wildlife may co-exist.
So, if your motive for attempting 'Veganuary', or indeed becoming vegan, is an environmental one, then you may want to reconsider. There is no question that we need to reduce our beef intake in the Western world, but removing it from our diet completely is also not the answer. If you're looking to save the environment, and even though it may sound counterintuitive, having a grass-fed, organically produced cut of beef may just be the best solution.