For many people, the very idea of making such a huge switch in diet can be daunting – especially if you’ve always enjoyed eating meat and dairy products. It’s no secret that they’re a substantial part of the typical diet and it can be difficult to cut them out completely.
There are various reasons why you or I choose to go vegan. In many cases, it’s a move towards supporting animal rights. Others may go down this path for health issues.
One reason many meat-eaters may not consider is the impact on climate change. Some people want to stop eating foods that hurt the planet. Is there a clear link between veganism and climate change?
The numbers don’t lie. Each day, a vegan diet saves:
- 1 animal’s life
- 1,100 gallons of water
- 45 pounds of grain
- 20 pounds CO2 equivalent
- 30 square feet of forested land
More people are now discovering how the meat industry is having severe negative impacts on the environment. Now, they’re keen to make a change. Part of this change in the diet means ditching meat and produce that is unsustainable.
According to researchers at Oxford Martin School, sticking to a meat-free diet could cut down greenhouse gases by 63% and 70% for a purely vegan diet.
It’s possible you’ve never thought about the link between veganism and environmentalism or heard about it. Yet, it’s a topic that is becoming more publicized and widespread as the years go by.
Every year new documentaries and films are being made about the impact of the meat industry. Increasingly, arguments for veganism are becoming mainstream and undeniable. The tide has definitely turned but there is plenty that still needs to be done.
Author Marco Springmann on the Future of Food at the University of Oxford had his say on the matter. He suggested that the world is suffering severe environmental pressures due to the meat-based diet. It could come to a head by as soon as 2050.
He told CNN: “It could lead to dangerous levels of climate change with higher occurrences of extreme weather events.
(It could) affect the regulatory function of forest ecosystems and biodiversity. (It is likely) to pollute water bodies such that it would lead to more oxygen-depleted dead zones in oceans”
While plant-based food expert Sharon Palmer also told CNN, “If the whole world, which continues to grow, eats more like us, the impacts are staggering. The planet simply can’t withstand it”.
Many experts agree that we need to act now before the damage becomes completely irreversible. It seems as though there is a frightening future ahead if we don’t make a change right now.
What is Climate Change?
You may be asking yourself what climate change actually means. Basically, the temperature of the earth has been rising dramatically since 50 years ago and according to scientists, this has a lot to do with the decisions we’re making.
It’s been revealed that 14.5% of global greenhouse emissions is all down to animal agriculture, which is why many people are deciding to go vegan.
While greenhouse gases typically get the most press, it’s not the only problem that needs addressing. Other environmental issues including the likes of land and water use are also damaging the ecosystem as a result of animal agriculture.
How Eating Meat Affects the Climate
There are a number of ways the meat industry affects the environment. From pollution to land consumption and harmful waste, the meat industry is a global enterprise that has a substantial negative effect on the environment.
Let’s take a look at if veganism and climate change really go hand-in-hand.
Meat production is one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions. Mass animal agriculture requires plenty of infrastructure for production to run smoothly. Due to this type of chain production, consequences occur. Ammonia, dust and Co2 are released into the atmosphere.
These types of emissions can cause human health conditions such as asthma, COPD and a higher chance of pneumonia from bacterial infections. Those who are prolonged these chemicals and particles may be at risk of long-term breathing issues.
2. Animal waste
In countries around the world, water pollution is a common occurrence. Animal waste is typically the main factor, which can go on to affect human health again if it is consumed.
It is probably something that flies under the radar for your average person. When they are enjoying their steak it is unlikely that they will be thinking about all the waste that has been produced. Next time you are chowing down on our Geneva meat’s steak you should consider the sheer enormity of raw waste involved in the meat industry.
According to PETA, a standard pig factory produces the same around of raw waste than a town of 12,000 people. As a result, it has become the number one issue associated with water pollution.
However, if manure is used correctly, it can positively impact the environment. Soil fertility and an alternative renewable energy source are two of the best benefits. These alternative methods can provide consistent high quality without excessive waste.
3. Land consumption
In comparison to grazing, intensive livestock production can have severe impacts on land. To keep animals fed, substantial amounts of harvested feed is needed. This agricultural impact on the environment is grave. The rise of veganism can help to decrease the substantial land consumption caused by the meat industry.
PETA declared that 80% of the corn we grow and 95% of oats are fed to livestock. Did you know that the number of cattle around the world consume the same amount of food calories as 8.7 billion people? That’s a larger figure than the number of people that actually exist on our planet.
If the demand for less meat was required, this wouldn’t be the case. This is the sole reason why being vegan and climate change is becoming a more popular subject. Every year the global requirement for meat puts strains on the environment that are detrimental to the progress of humanity and animals.
According to FAO, deforestation in the tropical rainforests is one of the main concerns we are facing in order to keep livestock fed. Deforestation can be seen clearly in photos that illustrate the way land has been rendered barren over the years.
Overgrazing can also lead to removing essential nutrients out of the soil. If animals are constantly grazing, these nutrients will never be replaced. In hotter and dryer regions around the world, soil erosion is even a common occurrence.
Obviously, if these levels of overgrazing are allowed to grow out of control it will be difficult to reverse and restore the land.
The loss of wild land across the world also means that there is now huge concern over the extinction for some species of animals. Many people have seen the images of polar bears trapped on meager blocks of ice but the loss of land can also be seen closer to home. The birds, insects, and mammals that populate our land are quickly being edged out of their territory because of excessive land consumption.
4. Greenhouse gas emissions
Cows, goats and sheep release methane as they consume plants. This is otherwise known as ‘enteric fermentation’ which occurs when they burp or produce waste. Chemical fertilizers are used to boost plant growth to feed to cattle.
According to the FAO, there is now a rising fear that the demand for beef is in greater demand than ever before. This demand puts strains on the environment because it leads to an increase in harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
They estimated that the industry would grow by 88% between 2010 and 2050. As you can expect, this will put even more pressure on forests and the climate if action isn’t taken.
Good land and production practices can help decrease greenhouse gas emissions. More climate change enthusiasts have been encouraging meat producers to modernize their production methods so that they do less damage to the environment.
Encouraging those in the meat industry to adopt better production practices is one of the more realistic ways environmental activists are approaching the problem.
What are the effects of veganism on the climate?
According to scientists, turning vegan could be the single biggest way to reduce your carbon footprint. Research was carried out by a team of specialists and a huge discovery was made.
Switching over to veganism could be one of the most important decisions you ever make in your attempt to save the planet. Feeding animals, killing them and then transporting and producing the meat takes a huge amount of energy.
If meat and dairy consumption was cut out of the human diet completely, 75% of the world’s land could be saved. This is a relatively simple way to make a serious positive change. Emissions for agriculture are set to increase by the year 2050. If changes aren’t made now – we’ll suffer for it in the years to come.
Our lush forests are being cut down to accommodate animals for farming and animals themselves are causing damage by producing the gas, methane.
As more and more people become aware of the effects of meat and dairy consumption it is natural for the human diet to change.
Making the change to become a full-time vegan can be difficult, so don’t worry about going in too deep too early.
It’s better to make small adjustments to your lifestyle so you have a chance to get used to the diet. Upon starting out, you could limit your meat and dairy products to just once per day. This alone has an even greater positive impact on the environment than going full vegetarian.
You may be asking yourself why this may be. Simply put – the consumption of dairy products is massively overlooked.
Most people jump to the conclusion that eating meat is the main issue, however, milk, cheese, butter, and other dairy products also take up huge amounts of land and environmental resources; all of which contribute to greenhouse gases.
If you’re not yet ready to make the full transition to veganism just yet – don’t worry. Start off slow and cut out foods one by one to see how you manage. This way, you’re likely to discover that switching your diet isn’t as difficult as you may have imagined.
Image Source: Happy Cow
The chair of the UN panel on climate change (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri, says that the best thing people can do to fight against climate change is to eat less meat.
Obviously there are many measures people can take to reduce environmental damages such as recycling and raising awareness. But becoming vegan is an easy and simple way of making a vital change.
Scientists also claim that by turning vegan, you will dramatically reduce your carbon footprint. Let’s have a look at what carbon footprint is and how veganism is connected.
What is a carbon footprint?
You may have heard of the term carbon footprint, but never understood the true meaning. In simple terms, it’s the amount of greenhouse gases that are produced as a result of your everyday activities.
The phrase ‘carbon footprint’ was coined to make it more tangible and accessible for people to understand. For a while, people struggled to comprehend how their everyday activities could affect the world. Nowadays people are improving the way they communicate environmental messages.
If you’re unsure whether you’re living a sustainable lifestyle, you can check online by using the carbon footprint calculator. This will help you get an idea of how you can improve on sustainable living. It is a simple way of comprehending how eating differently can help to save the world!
How are veganism and climate change connected?
Reduction of greenhouse gases
People are now growing more concerned with the substantial greenhouse gas emission that livestock produces.
Cows release a gas known as methane into the environment. This gas is even stronger than other greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide) which will eventually lead to extensive damage to the environment.
According to a study carried out by Rob Jackson, the agriculture sector emits 37% of anthropogenic methane. This contributes to 23 times of the carbon dioxide that’s set to cause global warming.
If the world were to cut down on eating meat altogether, the breeding of livestock would be significantly reduced. Less methane would be emitted, meaning we would be living in a much healthier world.
In comparison to other greenhouse gases, methane doesn’t last in the atmosphere too long. It’s usually around 9 years at a maximum. Carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, on the other hand, have an existence of between 20-200 years.
Image Source: BBC
Meat production also requires a great deal of energy. Not only are a substantial number of crops required to grow, but fossil fuels are burnt during the process of slaughter and transportation. Plumes of harmful gases will continue to fill the atmosphere as long as mass meat production continues.
Livestock accounts for 51% of the world’s greenhouse gases. So, if you choose to go on a meat-free diet, you’ll reduce your greenhouse gases emittance by almost half.
“It seems likely that emissions from livestock could be reduced by around 2.4 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases each year through technology and management.
Achieving these savings will be dependent on improvements in feeding practices (better pastures, new types of food, more grains and others), improved ways of handling manure, and improved genetics and animal management”(the conversation)
However, even more, progress can be achieved by changing our eating habits and reducing the need for animals to be slaughtered on a mass industrial scale.
It’s important to understand that if the vast amount of the US population chose to stick to a vegan diet, it would result in a 3% decrease in greenhouse gases. Changing the climate is a global factor that produces debate but the answer is relatively simple.
Preserve habitats and species
Eating animals has a huge impact on the extinction of species and destroying habits. Did you know that each second that goes by, an area of land equivalent to a football field is chopped down to locate livestock for slaughter? It’s a scary concept when you truly think about it.
Every year species become endangered and lose their place in the world because of our voracious hunger for meat. Thankfully, most people are growing more aware of the way people destroying the habitats of species at risk.
Awareness is not enough. Action is important. One way you can take action is to ditch meat. Even by eating a few vegan meals a week you can reduce your effect on the environment. Land is precious and the sooner people realize this the sooner endangered species will be able to receive help.
Overall, it has been discovered that eating meat requires three times more land than the vegan diet. So, this may put into perspective how veganism and climate change are combined. Education is key to breaking down the barriers.
Conservation of water
While you may think that water is in abundance, this certainly isn’t the case. It’s actually a very scarce source. In fact, only 2.5% of water on the planet is actually fresh and 30% of that figure is frozen ice that we don’t even have access to.
Mass meat production has had a huge influence on the conservation of global water. It is a problem that is both directly and indirectly related to the rate that people consume meat and dairy products.
With livestock breeding at a rapid rate, most of the fresh water we do have is given to them. Animal use fresh water to drink, wash and cool themselves when temperatures soar. But what about humans in third-world countries who don’t have access to fresh water at all?
The huge question on everyone’s lips is – why are people still choosing to consume meat when humans elsewhere in the world are suffering? We can still get all the nutrients we need from plant-based diets and make better usage of fresh water. With this in mind, huge changes need to be made in terms of veganism and climate change.
Do we really need meat to keep us healthy?
Although meat is the quickest and easiest way to achieve a balanced diet, it isn’t the only answer.
It’s a given that some of the vital nutrients such as vitamin D3, vitamin B12, creatine, DHA and taurine can all be found in animal products. Yet, as the popularity of veganism is on the rise, more supplements have become available.
Red meat (which you may associate with those chunky cartoon meats) has, in fact, been known to cause an array of health complaints such as the increased risk of cancer, obesity and heart disease.
White meats such as poultry only need to be consumed once per day, but it’s very simple to ditch meat altogether by turning to plant-based sources of protein.
So, should we really be eating meat at all? Many would argue it simply isn’t necessary with the number of supplements to choose from.
As a result, you’ll be eating a healthy diet and reducing your carbon footprint in the process.
Are there any other benefits to going vegan?
As with any diet, there are benefits to consider for your own health and wellbeing. Aside from preserving the environment, going vegan is also good for you!
Researchers have discovered that this particular diet has the ability to help you lose weight, contribute to a happier mood and even slow down the aging process.
How can you adopt a vegan diet?
If you’re keen to become a vegan but are unsure how to get started, our blogs provide tips for beginners, as well as useful recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
There are plenty of reasons for choosing to become vegan and one of the most important is climate change. Eating less meat and dairy products is a simple and convenient way of reducing your carbon footprint and making a contribution to the world.
Make a difference to the environment by drawing your own link between dieting and climate change. Continue to be curious and don’t be afraid to take action.
Are you looking to turn vegan and reduce your carbon footprint?
Leave your thoughts on veganism and climate change below.