Updated: Jan 3
Health: “Vegan and vegetarian diets have the potential to prevent most modern lifestyle diseases, which is why an increasing number of doctors and health institutions promote plant-based nutrition”. According to The Vegan Society, the number of vegans in the UK quadrupled between 2006 and 2018. One common motivation for shunning steak and stilton and going vegan is the promised health benefits. The WHO has classified processed meat such as bacon and sausage as carcinogenic. As a consequence, the vegan diet is generally considered to be higher in fibre and lower in cholesterol, protein, calcium and salt than an omnivorous diet – but there are still misconceptions and concerns around cutting meat, fish, eggs and dairy completely from our diets.
Planet: “According to the UN meat and dairy (farmed livestock) accounts for 14.5% of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions. That’s roughly equivalent to the exhaust emissions of every car, train, ship and aircraft on the planet!”
“A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use. It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” which would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Joseph Poore
Growing animal feed like soya takes up large areas of land. Rainforests and wildlife-rich land in places like Latin America are often destroyed to make space for this. Trees capture gases like carbon dioxide. This stops the gases building up in the atmosphere and warming our planet. Deforestation stops trees from continuing to capture carbon and is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in farming. It also has huge impacts on the animals and plants that rely on these habitats to survive (Organic Soil Association).
Cows and sheep, due to their complex digestive systems, burp out more methane gas than other farm animals. Methane is a very powerful but short-lived greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Intensive feedlot cow farms, more common in the USA, keep a very large number of animals in relatively small areas. It is argued that large herds of fast-growing cows have less climate impact, mainly because they live shorter lives. But, although they live for a shorter time, these farms aim to raise more cows. The more beef that’s produced, the more methane that will be released. The picture is bigger than methane too; intensive farms can be pollution hotspots. They rely on lots of water and grain crops for animal feed. Producing this grain uses land that could be used for human food crops.
This is a video released by Euractive. It explains the current situation in the EU underling that meat production is a significant factor of GHG emission in the EU. Producing 1 kilo of beef generates 65 times more CO2 than producing 1 kilo of potatoes. During digestion and excretion, livestock also releases methane, a gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. The EU is the second-largest producer of meat in the world and Europeans eat over 86 kilo of meat per person each year. Experts say that if Europe were to cut its meat and dairy intake by half, net greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture would decrease by 42%.