Meat-eaters versus vegans continues to be another way to define and divide ourselves, both sides adopting a belief-driven stance which is about identity creation as much as anything else. Fortunately, the flexitarians – who enjoy a bit of both – are the growing segment. Presumably they can calm everyone down in the pub when it kicks off.
Perhaps the most ferocious battle line after horrible animal killers versus nice animal lovers is planet destroyers versus environmentalists. And this is where the debate unravels. What is the environmental impact of a healthy vegan poke with avocado versus local lamb and potatoes? And what is the effect of the large-scale arable farming required if we all switched to eating plants versus a lot less methane around the world? Who knows.
And some would say there isn’t much point in caring anyway. We’re in a warm phase of an ice age. The polar ice caps have melted and frozen again for millennia and species have come and gone with the changing climates. Keen to connect with any climatologists who can put me straight on that one.
Let’s assume it really does matter. It is true though that we simply don’t stop to think about where our food has come from and the hidden impact. Apparently, the global food system contributes something like a quarter of all the world’s carbon emissions, animal products providing nearly 60% of that.
This lack of transparency is set to change, brands are starting to carry carbon labelling. Quorn was the first major brand to do this, reported here in The Guardian of course. A clever and surefire way to increase brand equity amongst its growing vegetarian and vegan customer base. Oatly also does the same, again, a sensible move considering its brand position. Importantly, doing this feels authentic for both of these brands. They both have strong values and both walk the talk.
Of course, carbon labelling is a totally imprecise science because we don’t know whether power used came from fossil fuels or a sustainable power, or a mix of both. But that doesn’t matter, it’s a guide and, communicated in the right way, it does stop and make us think. Organisations like the Carbon Trust can lead the way here, working with brands to help demystify things. Pausing our busy lives just for a second to consider the impact we have on the world around us, locally and globally, can only be a good thing.