Whilst most people – including myself – decide to go vegan to reduce animal suffering, the environmental argument is another reason to ditch animal products.
A new study by researchers at Oxford University lead researchers to conclude that the single biggest thing we can do for the planet is to stop consuming meat and dairy.
“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,” said Joseph Poore, at the University of Oxford, UK, who led the research. “It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car [...] Agriculture is a sector that spans all the multitude of environmental problems [...] Really it is animal products that are responsible for so much of this. Avoiding consumption of animal products delivers far better environmental benefits than trying to purchase sustainable meat and dairy.” – Joseph Poore, Oxford University.
According to the United Nations, rearing animals for food is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the cars, planes, trains, trucks and ships on Earth combined.
Animal farming is also a huge waste of water. It takes 1,000 litres of water to produce one beef burger, but just 167 litres to produce a tofu-based equivalent. You can also produce twice as much soya milk for the amount of water it takes to produce a litre of cows’ milk.
Intensive animal farming causes soil erosion and land degradation, and waste from intensive factory farms is one of the main causes of water pollution both in the UK and in other nations. In fact it is the biggest cause of water pollution in the UK.
In South America, the rainforest is being razed to the ground, primarily to make way for cattle ranching and growing crops to feed farmed animals. I am often told that vegans are destroying the rainforest because of soya production. And whilst it is true that vast amount of rainforest, most notably the Amazon, are now being used to grow soya, more that 95% of it is used to produce feed for farmed animals.
Fishing trawlers, with nets the size of football pitches, rake the seabed, destroying entire ecosystems. Even world governments admit that our oceans are on the brink of environmental collapse, with commercial fishing fleets stripping them bare.
Some argue that fish farming is a sustainable alternative, but one in four wild-caught fish is used to make fishmeal to feed to fish on farms. Furthermore, pollution caused by fish farming produces a barren landscape on the surrounding seabed, as nothing can survive.