What Does Greenpeace Think About Veganism?

Today is National Greenpeace Day, a day when we celebrate this organisation renowned as the greatest defender of the natural world and its inhabitants, admired by environmentalists worldwide for the work of its brave activists.

Its mission statement is:

“Greenpeace is the leading independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.”

So what does this global charity with such a dedication to saving the planet think about the best method of doing so – veganism?

Along with other goals, Greenpeace focuses on protecting our oceans, fighting global warming, and promoting sustainable food.

They acknowledge facts such as that the livestock sector accounts for 14% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, roughly equivalent to emissions from the transportation sector. But they make little mention of animal agriculture and why it should be avoided: they have received criticism from ‘refusing’ to advocate that meat consumption is a major contributor to climate change, despite the United Nations stating very clearly that it is.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society captain has also criticized Greenpeace for its hypocrisy in promoting sustainable diets and ocean protection while supporting the consumption of sea-life. Whereas Sea Shepherd ships converted to veganism in 1998, Greenpeace’s ships have no such commitment.

According to Captain Paul Watson, “[i]n 2005 when the Greenpeace ship Esperanza and the Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat were both in Cape Town, South Africa, some of our crew were invited on board the Esperanza for dinner and were shocked to see they were serving a fish dinner on the eve of departing on a campaign to protect fish.” It was also said that Greenpeace chefs commented that the idea of a vegan boat was ‘silly.’

But perhaps there might be a logical – although not desirable – reason behind this. Greenpeace administrators likely fear that advocating a minority lifestyle may violate their popularity, thus hindering the work they can do. It is thought that, “[t]hey see veganism as a radical and dangerous idea to promote and their research convinced them they would lose some support from their existing base.”

And there is evidence to support this concern: whereas Greenpeace in 2015 raised some $400 million in donations, Sea Shepherd raised around $12 million – that’s quite a difference.

Nonetheless, after Greenpeace refused to be interviewed for major environmental documentary Cowspiracy, they faced substantial criticism. Thus, Robin Oakley, on behalf of Greenpeace, blogged a response.

She claimed, “our US office declined to take part in this project as they felt sure our position would be misrepresented (as it has been for several other organisations featured in the film). We work on the animal agriculture issues by campaigning on cattle ranching, animal feed and destructive fishing, we encourage people to eat less or no meat and fish, and we serve only vegan and vegetarian food at our on site cafe. The implication in Cowspiracy that we take money from the meat industry is completely false and baseless – we are 100% independent and accept no money from companies or government.”

She also shed light on some of the beneficial work that Greenpeace has done:

“We’ve campaigned heavily on cattle ranching in the Amazon, despite great risks to our campaigners. A three-year undercover investigation also exposed the top name brands driving the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, by tracking beef, leather and other cattle products from ranches in the rainforest. This has had big results: Nike agreed to stop buying Amazon leather, and the World Bank withdrew a USD 90 million loan to Brazilian cattle giant, Bertin – money which was intended to fund further expansion into the Amazon region. It’s a good start – and shows that we can make an impact on this issue.

“Turning to the oceans, our largest global oceans campaign calls for the creation of sanctuaries in the high seas, covering a massive 40% of the ocean. These reserves are off-limits to fishing, fossil fuel extraction and other industrial activities. Here in the UK, years of hard work on bycatch and unsustainable fishing have forced almost every supermarket brand tinned tuna to cut out destructive fishing methods – and now we’re going after the biggest tuna brands.”

Oakley also explained why Greenpeace does not advocate for everyone to go vegan: “[a]dvocating a one-size-fits-all solution of ‘go vegan to save the planet’ simply isn’t an appropriate…solution to someone who relies on subsistence farming or fishing for survival.” Given the situations of those living in remote and impoverished areas throughout the world, such as in Africa where many live well below the poverty line and have minimal access to nutrients, it must be acknowledged that veganism may not possible for some.

However, given that those of us living in developed countries, particularly in the West, with an abundance of access to a range of vegan foods without having to ‘fork out’ to eat well, Greenpeace could do more to stress the importance of adopting a vegan lifestyle when it really is so easy.

Oakley concluded by saying that “[b]ecoming vegan is a wonderful thing you can do to reduce your impact” – a message that needs to be emphasized more.


Image Credit: Greenpeace