Eat vegan to protect the planet. While the idea may already be gaining ground among a growing number of environmentally minded citizens, the findings of a recent study could help swell their ranks.
The research published in the journal “Nature Food” concludes that adopting a vegan diet could help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 75% compared to a meat-rich diet – a significant reduction.
Carried out by researchers from Oxford University, this extensive study examined the impact of the eating habits of over 55,000 people in the United Kingdom.
This vast sample included both “high” meat eaters (more than 100g a day) and “low” meat eaters (less than 50g a day), as well as fish eaters, vegetarians and vegans.
The study also took into account differences in food production methods, based on analysis of data from over 38,000 farms in 119 countries.
“Modelled dietary scenarios often fail to reflect true dietary practice and do not account for variation in the environmental burden of food due to sourcing and production methods,” the researchers explained.
Several criteria were further taken into account to assess the impact of eating habits on the planet, such as land use, the risk of water pollution, and the potential loss of biodiversity.
The verdict: compared with meat-rich diets, vegan diets not only reduced land use by 75%, but also cut water use (54%), and reduced the destruction of wildlife by 66%.
The study points out that differences of at least 30% were found between “low” and “high” meat eaters for most of these parameters.
“Despite substantial variation due to where and how food is produced, the relationship between environmental impact and animal-based food consumption is clear and should prompt the reduction of the latter,” the authors concluded.
Conflict and conservation
Giving up animal products, and meat in particular, may not only benefit the planet – according to a November study, it could also help reduce food insecurity linked to the war in Ukraine.
Researchers at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands pointed out that 60% of the agricultural production of imported Ukrainian and Russian crops is used to feed animals.
Based on this, they deduced that stopping eating meat could free up this farmland and compensate for “all production deficits from Russia and Ukraine while yielding improvements in blue water use, greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration”.