A new study conducted by the University of Oxford researchers has found that a vegan plant based diet is the “single biggest measure” one person can take to reduce pollution. The researchers discovered that quitting mammary fluid and flesh products reduced a persons carbon footprint by up to 73%.
Global agricultural land use would be reduced by about 75% if the world went vegan. That would be a piece of land the size of the EU, USA, Australia, and China COMBINED. According to the scientists we would then have more than enough to feed the world while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and halting the loss of natural habitats leading to our current mass extinction.
This new study is one of the most thorough analyses done that shows the negative impact of animal agriculture on the earth. They analyzed almost 40,000 farms across 119 countries, looking at 40 separate agricultural products that account for 90% of global protein consumption, and not surprisingly the impact of those foods on greenhouse gases, freshwater use, land use, and air pollution showed the impact of animal products “significantly exceeds that of plant products”.
Flesh and mammary fluid products are responsible for 60% of greenhouse gas emissions, the end “products” that are consumed only make up 37% of protein and 18% of calories in the diets of people worldwide.
They also compared different ways of producing the same products and they found a large difference between their ecological impacts on the environment. One example of this is that cattle raised on “natural pastures” used 50 times less land than those raised on cleared deforested land like that used in the rainforests. They discovered that those raised on deforested land compared to those on the “natural pastures” was a 12 times difference in greenhouse gas emissions between the two.
According to Joseph Poore, research director and lead author of the study, a vegan diet is the best way to reduce an individual’s environmental footprint. The consumption of plant based foods not only reduces greenhouse gases, but also global acidification, eutrophication, and land and water use.
The effect is “far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” he explained, since the latter would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “Avoiding consumption of animal products delivers far better environmental benefits than trying to purchase sustainable meat and dairy,” he added in an interview with The Independent.
Poore also explained that even production methods considered sustainable, such as the production of meat from grass-fed cattle, can cause environmental problems. “Converting grass into [meat] is like converting coal to energy. It comes with an immense cost in emissions,” he told the Guardian.
His research comes from a five year long project that started as an investigation into sustainable flesh and mammary fluid products. From that came the study you see now and the suggestion that we begin implementing environmental labels on products as a solution.
“Consumers take time to become aware of things, and then even more to act on them. Furthermore, the labels probably need to be in combination with taxes and subsidies. My view is that communicating information to consumers could tip the entire food system towards sustainability and accountability.”
Poore himself is on a plant based vegan diet now that he began after the first year of research done on the project.
“These impacts are not necessary to sustain our current lifestyles. The question is by how much can we reduce them, and the answer is a lot.”
As evidence continues to mount against animal agriculture and its severe impacts on the environment, humans and especially animals the world is waking up to the changes we have to make.
With the plant based meat industry set to become a 140 billion dollar market in the next decade and many studies showing that animal agriculture will collapse in that same decade we’ve just entered, the writing is on the wall and the future is vegan.
Link to study: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6392/987.long