The future of our environment lies on your plate

According to climate activist Greta Thunberg, eating meat is “stealing her generation’s future”

If we pay close attention to the environmental impact of meat production, we can understand this bold statement as there are many reasons why the meat industry is unsustainable.

First, the water footprint of meat from beef cattle is 15 400 m 3 /ton as a global average.

This is particularly problematic, considering agriculture causes 78 per cent of eutrophication (pollution of water with excessive nutrients). Another interesting fact to highlight is that the global meat consumption is around 350 million tons of meat a year and is expected to be increased as much as another 160 per cent by 2050. This is why a report from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) suggests that 64 per cent of the population will be living in water-stressed areas by 2025, partially due to excessive water use for meat production.

The meat industry also threatens biodiversity. The FAO further reveals that livestock uses 30 per cent of global land, which is very alarming because cattle ranching is the leading reason for deforestation in the Amazon rainforests. What was once habitat for animals, 70 per cent of the forested land in the Amazon is now used for livestock pastures.

The FAO also reports that animal agriculture is responsible for 18 per cent of all greenhouse gases in CO2 equivalent. The livestock sector is also responsible for 65 per cent of the emission  of nitrous oxide, another harmful gas with 296 times the global warming potential of CO2. Nitrous oxide is also harmful considering it can stay up 150 years in the atmosphere. It’s also worth noting that most greenhouse gas production results from methane (which is released in the atmosphere when cows do their business), and is a lot more destructive than CO2. Over a 20-year period, methane had a global warming potential of 84 times that of CO2.

There is no doubt that the effects of meat production on the environment are detrimental. Though it is impossible to ask the whole world to turn vegan, there needs to be a reduction of meat consumption on an individual level. For example, Dr. Frank Hu from the Harvard T.H. Chang School of Public Health recommends that we “consider red meat as a luxury and not as a staple food.”

Petrina, a student who has been a vegan for roughly a year, says that she began her vegan diet because of her parents. She realized that “There is a misconception that we need meat to get our daily protein needs, but from my experience, there are so many alternatives like vegetables and beans. Once you get the basics in your fridge, you can build on that,” Petrina emphasizes.

From my personal experience, I was a vegetarian for two years, from 2016 to 2018. I wasn’t well informed nor educated enough to take this step because I had an unhealthy diet that consisted of eating junk food to replace the meat cravings. Today, I no longer identify myself as a vegetarian, but I will make it a new year’s resolution to reduce my meat consumption to identify myself as a flexitarian, someone who eats meat moderately.

Carol Altimas, a pescetarian, shares her experience.

“I always said that I wouldn’t say ‘no’ if someone had prepared [meat] for me as a special meal. Ultimately, it’s not about how perfect I am as a pescatarian, but reducing my impact on the environment by eating less meat,” says Altimas.

We must preserve our remaining resources and reduce our carbon footprint if we want to protect our planet for future generations. Whether it is by becoming vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or even just limiting your meat consumption — the power is on your plate.


Feature graphic by @the.beta.lab

Student Life

Broken Pencil: The death of avocados

More everyday food items than you think aren’t vegan friendly

In the last two weeks, news outlets like The Washington Post, Huffington Post, The Daily Meal and Vice Munchies have published articles about why avocados aren’t vegan-friendly. All these articles debating whether vegans should boycott avocados, yet no articles about whether people should boycott honey and beeswax products. Suspicious.

The wave of vegan avocado-related articles started when Sandi Toksvig, of the BBC’s comedy quiz show QI, revealed to listeners that avocados—as well as almonds, butternut squash, kiwis, melons and many other fruits and veggies—aren’t vegan-friendly. And all for the same reason: their harvesting cycles rely on pollination from honey bees. The most obvious example of non-vegan food made by animals (as opposed to from animals) are dairy products, such as milk and butter.

Ethical beekeeping does—and must—exist in order to maintain the global chain of food supply. However, in lieu of mass overconsumption and globalization, the degree of human interference in the pollination habits of honey bees has increased dangerously. According to a study conducted by North Carolina State University, the overall health and lifespan of honey bees was shown to be adversely affected by the commercial transportation of bee colonies for pollination purposes—or migratory beekeeping. Now a widespread agricultural practice throughout Europe and North America, migratory beekeeping involves attaching artificial beehives to the back of transportation trucks so the food items being transported are pollinated en route. Multiple experiments within this study showed the lifespan of travelling bees to be one day less than stationary bees. Although this may not seem like a drastic difference, it is when we consider that the average forager bee’s life span is only 20 days, the study suggested.

What a lot of people—even vegans—may not realize is that a single honey bee will produce merely a 12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime, according to the Vegan Society. Imagine how many bees it takes just to fill one jar of honey. How many jars have you gone through this year alone? Migratory beekeeping is just one of the many anthropocentric factors contributing to the endangerment of honey bees.

Now, back to avocados (yes, we are still talking about avocados). They arguably aren’t vegan-friendly, but who cares? The Vegan Society acknowledged in an interview with Plant Based News that “it is unfortunately not possible or practicable to avoid [indirect harm to] other animals in most farming at this time.” So, if you’re not ready to give up avocados, here are a few other ways to better wield your sword of purchasing power. Instead of honey, try date syrup, agave nectar or maple syrup for cooking, baking and sweetening drinks, respectively. Avoid buying honey-based or beeswax products. If you have access to green space, lavender, thyme and oregano are all plants you can grow that help bees pollinate. In general, try to support local food distribution networks and farmers’ markets as opposed to transnational food chains. And please, do not fret the death of avocados. Save the bees!

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

Student Life

Making veganism palatable

Chef Jean-Philippe Cyr talks about the food industry and his diet transition

Are you curious about vegan food? Always wondered if it’s affordable for you as a student? Here’s your chance to learn more about it! The Montreal Vegan Festival will be hosting its fifth edition this weekend, on Oct. 20 and 21.

Given the festival’s success in previous years, organizers had to relocate from Marché Bonsecours to the Palais des Congrès for this year’s event. The Montreal Vegan Festival is one of the biggest in Canada and is free for all, since the organisers want to keep it accessible and affordable. Many activities and workshops will be held in both French and English by well-known vegan chefs—such as Gaz Oakley and Sébastien Kardinal, a French chef and founder of, a platform for an array of restaurant reviews, food tastings and new recipes.

Jean-Philippe Cyr—known for “La cuisine de Jean-Philippe,” a Facebook page, website, and now a book of recipes translated into English—is this year’s festival spokesperson.

Photo courtesy of Danny Payne.

Environmental and ethical issues surrounding the food industry are some aspects of veganism the chef wanted to share. Cyr said that, since the 1960s, the world population has doubled, while the population of cows has quadrupled, meaning our beef consumption has increased significantly in that time. He also mentioned issues concerning antibiotics given to the animals we consume. Cyr said the main problem our society faces now is caused by industrialization. “Back in the day, people had a cow and a pig to feed the family; it wasn’t a major environmental problem,” he said.

Cyr is a good model for students that want to try to out a vegan diet. He said becoming a vegan can’t be done on the drop of a dime—it requires a period of transition. “I was a classically [trained] chef, already cooking vegan food in a Buddhist temple, but still I was going to McDonald’s like everyone,” said Cyr. When asked about how he began cooking vegan food, he said his breaking point came one day when he had to serve lamb at a funeral home. The atmosphere of the funeral home combined with the fact that Cyr was serving a dead baby animal was, for him, a revelation. “It was an intense connection,” he said. That day, Cyr decided to quit his job. His wife suggested that he start sharing his vegan cooking knowledge online—which Cyr thought was a good idea—so he began to do so on Facebook.

Aiming to make vegan food accessible to as many people as possible, Cyr offers alternatives for traditional recipes to help make this transition easier. “My meals are simple and easy to do and are cultural references; spaghetti sauce tastes the same whether you put beef or tofu. There are ways to eat vegan without noticing it,” Cyr said. “I am a chef, not a nutritionist,” he added.

If you are on a tight budget, switching to a vegan diet can actually help you save some money. “Last time I checked, chickpeas were still cheap and tofu is half the price of ground beef,” said Cyr.

The Montreal Vegan Festival will take place Oct. 20 and 21 at the Palais des Congrès. Jean-Philippe Cyr will give a workshop on how to prepare tofu on Saturday, Oct. 20. On Oct. 21, he will take part in a vegan poutine contest with Sébastien Kardinal.

Feature image courtesy of Danny Payne.

Student Life

Montreal festival is a vegan’s paradise

May contain eggs, milk, butter or gelatin are words that could not be found anywhere at Marché Bonsecours this weekend. Ingredients like soy, nuts, legumes and tofu, on the other hand, were readily available.

On Nov. 4 and 5, vegans from across the country gathered for the fourth edition of Montreal’s Vegan Festival. Conferences, culinary demonstrations, dégustations and over 30 stands introduced aspects of veganism to the public.

In the scenic Old Port, the market was packed to its maximum capacity throughout the weekend. A stage was set up on the lower level to host conferences and culinary demonstrations by vegan cooks, artists, athletes, philosophers, sociologists and bloggers. The upper level offered different options of vegan food, drinks, desserts, skincare products and clothing. Festival goers ranging from toddlers to seniors lined up for free samples of cheesecake or kombucha. Some tried on winter jackets or even got a vegan tattoo.

After five years of experimentation in her kitchen to veganize her favorite comfort food, Sam Turnbull attends Montreal’s vegan festival for the first time. Photo by Elisa Barbier

Among the many people hosting conferences at the festival, Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches, a professional triathlon athlete from Quebec, discussed the health and athletic performance benefits of a vegan diet. Three years ago, Jolicoeur Desroches made the decision to become a vegan after seven years as a vegetarian. “I had always been careful with my impact on the environment, but I had never thought of the impact my eating habits could have,” he said. For Jolicoeur Desroches, his ethics toward the environment were far more important than the effect this new diet could have on his body and practice. Nonetheless, the results were positive and noticeable. “My performance increased. It became easier to recover, and I became able to use all the energy my body was uselessly spending to digest animal products,” he said.

He advised young athletes to make the transition slowly, adding days or meals throughout the week that eliminate animal-based products, such as “meatless Monday.”

“[Veganism] is a lifestyle that must be established for a lifetime through progressive change,” Jolicoeur Desroches said. He added that traveling for competitions has not hindered his eating habits. “There are always local products like fruits, vegetables, pasta, potatoes or rice. Also, having a set of spices is good to diversify seasoning,” he said.

Seasoning is big part of Sam Turnbull’s daily life. The Concordia alumna and author of the blog “It doesn’t taste like chicken” attended the festival to discuss her new book, Fuss-free Vegan, about vegan comfort food.

Unlike Jolicoeur Desroches, Turnbull made the full transition overnight five years ago after watching a documentary on animal cruelty. Growing up in a family of chefs, butchers and hunters, Turnbull loved cheese and meat. “When I made the switch, it is because I knew I should, not because all of a sudden I was obsessed with vegan food,” Turnbull said. “At first, I started looking up vegan recipes, but it was all kale, quinoa and energy bars. So I started my blog because I don’t eat that way,” she said. Turnbull’s blog is unique, as it features recipes focusing mainly on comfort food like pizza, burgers, sandwiches and dessert—foods that people don’t usually associate with veganism.

“It is all with easy-to-find ingredients at local grocery stores, not weird powders or maca root,” Turnbull said with a laugh. She encourages students to follow a vegan lifestyle since foods like cheese and meat can be expensive compared to fruits and vegetables. And diversity in taste is easily achievable using spices. “You can make a delicious meal with beans and rice as long as you have the right spices in it,” Turnbull said.

Vesanto Melina hosted a conference on Saturday afternoon providing nutritional advice for the public and the dietitians assisting the festival. Photo by Elisa Barbier

Beans are also the solution for Vesanto Melina, a dietician and lead author of the book The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Beans represent a source of vegetable protein often forgotten, according to Melina. She was a vegetarian for more than two decades before making the transition to veganism 24 years ago. As a dietician, Melina discussed the dos and don’ts of a vegan diet, but also how to get all the nutrients your body needs.

Learning to add beans, peas and lentils to your recipes as well as acquiring non-dairy sources of calcium in your diet is often forgotten. “Once people have those knacks and they make sure to take vitamin B12, things move along really well,” Melina said. Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient that comes from bacteria often present in meat products.

“Vegans don’t lack nutrients more than anybody else,” Melina said. She emphasised that anybody is at risk of malnutrition in Canada—especially those who lack vitamin D during the long winters. “It is easy to find vegetal proteins or calcium that are more efficient than animal ones,” Melina said.

Photos by Elisa Barbier


A variety of options for veggie-loving students

Concordia Animal Rights Association advocates for a vegan lifestyle

For the average university student, finding the time to eat—let alone eat healthy—during a busy school day can be challenging. For a student eating a plant-based diet, it can be downright impossible.

Lucky for veggie-lovers, Concordia University is one of the best places in the city to study as a vegan, according to the Association Végétarienne de Montréal (AVM). In 2010, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) passed a motion requiring the university to ensure all activities on campus offer vegan options. According to the AVM, the initiative was brought forward by Concordia alumnus Lucas Solowey when he was a member of the Concordia Animal Rights Association (CARA).

According to Caitlin Yardley, CARA’s current volunteer coordinator, CARA members are still “huge promoters of the vegan lifestyle.” As the university’s official animal rights club, CARA’s mission is to work towards the protection of all animals through awareness, activism and encouraging compassion towards all living beings. “[Veganism] can be a very positive lifestyle change,” Yardley said.

While she has practiced a vegan lifestyle for six years, Yardley has been a vegetarian since she was eight years old.

“I originally became a vegetarian purely out of no longer enjoying meat,” Yardley said. “As I researched more about the harm caused to animals […] and the health implications animal products can have [on humans], I eventually became vegan and have never wanted to go back.”

When she began her studies at Concordia, Yardley became involved with CARA to bring awareness to animal rights issues and encourage students to get involved with the organization.

“We get to inform Concordia about injustices animals face, which [students] may be unaware of or ignore,” Yardley said.

As a partner of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), CARA definitely cannot be ignored. PETA provides CARA with free media and goods to distribute to students attending their events. The student group also offers a variety of volunteer opportunities, such as working with Guardian’s Best Animal Rescue Foundation, Chatopia (a Montreal-based non-profit cat rescue) and many other animal-oriented organizations.

CARA holds a variety of events each semester. Earlier this month, they hosted their annual Vegan Thanksgiving, where students could enjoy vegan treats while learning more about the food industry.

“The Vegan Thanksgiving was a great success this year,” Yardley said. “People really enjoyed the food we were giving out, which included veggie sausages, mini pumpkin pies, brownies and banana bread. Even those who were skeptical about the faux meats ended up liking them.” Yardley added that many people who were already vegan or vegetarian came to the booth to express gratitude for the event.

“[It] was great to see,” Yardley said. “When I first became vegan, I knew no one else who even expressed interest in taking part in the lifestyle. Within the past few years, there has definitely been a huge shift towards people becoming vegan.”

This shift has become increasingly apparent at Concordia. With the People’s Potato, the Green Beet, the Hive, le Frigo Vert and a number of other conveniently located veggie-friendly food stops, eating a plant-based diet is becoming increasingly accessible on Concordia’s campuses.

Concordia student Sara Shields-Rivard has been a vegetarian for over two years.

“At first, I found it difficult because many of my friends at the time were not vegetarian, so when we went out to eat, we could never agree on a place,” Shields-Rivard said. “However, since then, I’ve discovered the vegetarian gems of Concordia […] These places have made being a vegetarian in university much easier.”

Shields-Rivard said, with the readily available vegetarian options on campus, avoiding animal-products is often the easier, cheaper option. “If you go to the People’s Potato, all you have to bring is a Tupperware and some change for donation.”

As a Concordia student following a mostly plant-based diet, Hannah Gold-Apel said she does not have a problem maintaining her diet at school.

“I find it pretty easy to eat plant-based at school, especially with the free vegan lunches provided at both campuses,” Gold-Apel said. “All in all, I think Montreal is a pretty good city to be a broke, vegetarian student in.”

For students interested in animal rights or a plant-based diet, Yardley said there are a multitude of events to look forward to in the near future. This Wednesday, Oct. 18, CARA will be hosting a coffee break event in the JMSB lobby, where students can sample a variety of dairy-free milks. On Oct. 26, CARA is partnering with Anonymous for the Voiceless to hold an anti-fur event called “Who Are You Wearing?” that will take place in the JMSB lobby from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For Halloween, CARA will be hosting a themed event where they will be giving out cruelty-free makeup.

More information can be found on CARA’s Facebook page or at their office on 2020 Mackay St., P-303.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

Exit mobile version