Environment

The Economist Magazine stresses the ecological benefits of veganism – again

Stresses dramatic potential reduction in CO2 emissions from going vegan

Food-related carbon emissions could be reduced by sixty per cent if two-thirds of meals were vegan, according to the Economist Magazine, the same publication which called 2019 as the Year of the Vegan earlier this year.

The article asks the provocative question of how much giving up meat can help the environment. A study by scientists at Oxford University and the University of Minnesota published this week, in relation to both the environmental and personal health consequences burdens of having an extra serving per day of different food types draws a very dramatic picture. The health findings were sobering. A person eating the equivalent of about two rashers of bacon a day (50g of processed red meat) over and above the average Western diet has a 41% higher chance of dying in a given year. That is a staggering statistic.

The impact of this additional food portion is even more pronounced on the environment. The 50g processed red meat is deemed to be academically equivalent to about 100g of vegetables as a standard serving. That additional portion of meat ends up producing at least 20 times as much greenhouse-gas and requires a hundred times as much land use. In other words, red meat is about 35 times more damaging than a bowl of greens. 

For many the idea of eating 100g of, say, spinach rather than 50g of bacon is hard. The standard Western dieter would worry about constant pangs of hunger. So one option is to join the ranks of today’s flexitarians. As an example going vegan for two-thirds of meals would make a very significant difference for health and environment.

What would happen if two-thirds of all meals were vegan?

Citing a report earlier this year by academics primarily at John Hopkins University about the environmental effects of food substitutions, the Economist believes that adopting a vegan diet for two-thirds of meals would cut food-related greenhouse-gas emissions by almost 60%. The figure would be a carbon footprint reduction of 85% if the trend to a vegan diet was absolute.

A recent UN report issued by its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) came to much the same conclusion stating in very clerq terms that the West’s high consumption of meat and dairy is a major factor in climate change. The IPCC Report’s implication was very clear: that at the very least we need to cut down our meat consumption. 

A recent Veganism Impact Report told a very similar story, demonstrating a similar picture of huge CO2 savings if more people went vegan.

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Nicholas Orosz

Nicholas is a former City solicitor and Cambridge graduate. He has a long-standing interest in health & nutrition, the environmental movement, green politics & digital publishing. He has always loved crafting words. His transition to a vegan perspective has been gradual and an ongoing process of self-discovery. Contact: nicholas@vegansbethechange.com
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