There are a whole host of reasons to go vegan. Research indicates a wide range of health benefits of being vegan, including reduced cholesterol, lower blood pressure and increased absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Then there are arguments for animal welfare: a single glance at the North American Meat Institute’s report is a stark reminder that literally billions of animals are slaughtered for the food industry every year.
But of all the benefits of being vegan, none is more compelling than the impact that the meat and dairy industry has on our environment. As the climate crisis is set only to get worse, it has never been more important for us, as consumers, to do our best to limit the impact of climate change and protect our environment. At XMeals our mission is not only to create great vegan food that’s easy to enjoy but also to spread the word about how going vegan can help save the planet.
Here are nine reasons why going vegan can help the environment:
1. Livestock are responsible for a huge percentage of greenhouse gas emissions
As a whole, food production accounts for an incredible 26% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Think about it: that’s just over a quarter of the greenhouse gases warming up our atmosphere. And of all those emissions, an incredible 31% come from livestock and fisheries!
That’s just the amount that comes from raising and farming animals themselves: methane emitted through digestion (yes, in other words, cow farts), manure management and fuel consumption by fishing vessels. A further 16% of food emissions come from the land-use required for raising livestock and a further 6% of food emissions come from growing crops for animal feed. That’s right, the food we feed our food accounts for 6% of our global food emissions.
But what does this mean in real terms? In short, over half of the greenhouse gases from food production come from the meat and dairy industry. Based on these figures, we could in effect reduce global emissions— not just from food— by an eighth if everyone followed a vegan diet.
2. Dropping dairy, as well as meat, considerably reduces emissions
We often think of numbers relating to cattle and livestock as applying only to meat. But the dairy industry is also responsible for huge greenhouse gas emissions. By simply changing to alternative, non-dairy milk alternatives, you can considerably reduce the carbon footprint of your diet!
3. Going vegan can help protect our oceans
Pollution from livestock doesn’t just affect the air. The nitrogen and phosphorus in animal waste can find their way into our seas and have already been linked to marine ‘dead zones’. Elements leaked through rivers and streams get into the sea, leading to chemical reactions that drastically reduce the amount of oxygen in the surrounding water. These ‘dead zones’ are becoming incapable of supporting life and they already make up millions of miles of our coastal waters.
On top of all this, both rising sea temperatures and intensive fishing are decimating our marine life. All the more reason to go vegan!
4. Going vegan reduces energy consumption
So we’ve mentioned livestock emissions, but those are just the emissions from rearing animals. Then there’s all the energy that goes into processing meat, which uses up huge amounts of fossil fuels.
Producing one pound of beef has been suggested to use up a whopping 31.5 kilowatt-hours of energy, which is roughly the amount of energy your fridge would use over the course of a whole month! Plant-based foods, on the other hand, require considerably less processing and therefore use up less energy.
5. Farming livestock is responsible for huge environmental damage
So there are livestock emissions and then the emissions from meat processing. Now let’s think more about the land needed to rear livestock. According to the WWF, cattle ranching alone is responsible for an incredible 80% of current deforestation in the Amazon. When you consider that deforestation is at an all-time high, there has never been a better time to consider going vegan and lessening our reliance on cattle.
6. Going vegan promotes global biodiversity
The Amazon rainforest is believed to be home to one tenth of all the world’s animal species. And yet with huge deforestation due to cattle farming, many of these species are under threat. Cattle ranching also increases the risk of forest fires, which devastate the habitats of numerous species.
But this problem isn’t just confined to the Amazon rainforest. 27% of the American farmland is pasture. This means it primarily grows grass for cattle to graze on. Such monoculture is bad for biodiversity and threatens the habitats of countless species. Of course this is a problem with farming practices for all kinds of food, not just meat and dairy, but by moving towards a vegan diet, we can promote more varied and diverse types of farmland, which will be better for wildlife and the planet as a whole.
7. Going vegan saves water
2.7 billion people are affected by water scarcity. It is therefore vital that we adapt our diets to ensure that we waste as little water as possible.
An average kilogram of beef has a water footprint of 15,400 liters. Meanwhile, one kilogram of potatoes has a water footprint of only 290 liters. So if we want to save water and ensure our diets have a minimal environmental impact, going vegan is clearly our best option!
8. Going vegan protects our soil and farmland
In addition to the environmental damage caused by deforestation, animal agriculture has a detrimental effect on the quality of our soil. Deforestation and land clearance for livestock means we lose nutrient-rich soil that could be used for growing crops.
Beyond that, our reliance on livestock increases the demand for crops to feed that livestock. This leads to intensive farming and over-cultivation, which reduces the nutrient content of soil over the long term, making it less fertile for crops.
“But surely everyone going vegan would lead to more intensive crop farming?” Actually, no! Astonishingly, 67% of crops grown in the US are grown for animal feed, along with 35% of crops grown worldwide. So, odd as it sounds, following a plant-based diet actually reduces the demand for crop production.
9. Going vegan can help combat world hunger
It’s easy to talk about the environment in the abstract as if it’s something separate from us. But, along with all the wildlife and habitat that suffers because of climate change, the biggest threat is to humanity itself.
According to the Global Hunger Index, 47 countries worldwide are seriously affected by hunger. That’s over 800 million people. As already outlined above, one of the benefits of going vegan is that it frees up huge swathes of farmland currently dedicated to feeding farm animals. Only 55% of the crop calories produced world-wide are consumed by people. Therefore, by redirecting our agricultural practices, it is thought that we could easily generate enough food to feed the whole planet.
So why do people go vegan?
Often, when we consider the benefits of being vegan, we think about how it affects us personally. But as we have seen, going vegan is not just a good idea for the individual, it’s good for everyone. As we continue to face the effects of climate change, going vegan is demonstrably the most significant personal action we can take as individuals to protect the earth, its wildlife, and our fellow humans. Surely, this is the best of all reasons to be vegan.
If this has inspired you to try out a vegan diet, go to XMeals for some great vegan meals to get you started!