The long-awaited Government Action Plan is remarkable not only for what it includes, but more especially for what it leaves out. It was easy to hit all the soft targets and the usual suspects. Targeting farmers and livestock might satisfy the trendy and the influential Dublin 4 Vegan and Fashionista Constituency for now, but at what cost?
An American vegan fake meat maker which has never made a profit was recently valued at €5bn! Vegans and fashionista cults are now leading us all down another plug-hole. But before we blindly follow them, we should check the real environmental costs of their slow foods and fast fashions.
A recent survey of upmarket greengrocers and supermarkets in the Cavan and Enniskillen reveals a shocking picture. Over 90% of the common-or-garden fresh vegetables we eat every day are imported from many thousands of miles away. We are now even importing carrots from Argentina!
Of course vegetable growers in Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Spain, Greece, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Argentina, are grateful for our business: Our sheer extravagance and climate risk irresponsibility are what keep them in business.
Of course, they have other critical issues to worry about besides the air miles, or carbon footprint or climate risks of their farm produce. But their vegetables rack up all these critical issues on a massive scale, before they get to Ireland. Furthermore, plant-based “milks” are now the latest fashion gimmick for vegans.
Therefore, vast tracts of virgin forest and rainforest are being bulldozed daily, to make room for palm kernel plantations throughout Africa and Malaysia. Strangely, the vegan community appears to be oblivious to any of these dangers! But this is only the start of it. Some basic facts demonstrate the follies and the dangers of our vegans and fashionistas.
The international fashion industry emits more carbon gases every day than the whole of Ireland’s farmers and transport services.
This international Industry emits more carbon every day than the global aviation and shipping services put together. In fact, international fashion has a carbon footprint as big as Russia. And Russia, the biggest country in the world, is about 250 times bigger than Ireland.
It has massive oil and gas fields and very large but highly inefficient state and corporate farms. International fashion’s polluting impact is caused by the very flawed business model of the industry.
At retail level, the fashion industry is worth €32bn a year to the UK economy: “Fast Fashion” is based on a massive and unsustainable over-exploitation of the planet’s human and natural resources. Children in sweat shops in Bangladesh, Bangalore and Rawlpindi slave for long hours at a time, to take home less than a dollar a day. The soils, waters, and air around these these cities are all heavily polluted. The slums and the shanty town they live in have no running water or toilets or sewage services.
Everything conspires to leave Asian children working in the “Fast Fashion” sweatshops highly vulnerable to terminal diseases like TB, Malaria, and a whole bunch of other water-borne diseases.
Accordingly, their life expectancy is at least 25 years less than Irish children. Child labour in Bangadesh, Pakistan, and India produces 100m garments a year. Over 80m of these end in landfill and incinerators within a year of being purchased. These amount to over 300,000 tonnes of highly polluting materials.
“Fast Fashion” is now one of the biggest things on social media. But while consumers buy garments in the virtual world, they wear them in the real world: it’s a simple as pick, click, buy, pay, wear, and dump. Garment prices are too low but the profits are too high. But it’s still a long, long way from the catwalks of London and Paris, to the slums and the back streets of Bangladesh and Bangalore.
A fast fashion dress may sell for less than €5. But massive profits are still being made at every link all along the wholesale and retail chain: Accordingly, 8 out of every 10 garments can be discarded and dumped after being worn only once. In order to be environmentally sustainable, garments must be worn at least 30 times, before they are discarded.
There is more to life than the price of a disposable dress! Vegans and fashionistas need to be careful, that in winning the battle, they don’t lose lose the war. They can ban the steak, but not the sizzle!
This reader's opinion was originally published in the letters page of the Irish Examiner print edition on 27 June 2019.