The vegan diet is linked to many health benefits– it is exclusively plant-based, rejecting all animal products. For some, veganism is an obvious roadmap to living a healthier lifestyle, and some practice it for ethical and environmental reasons. Either way, this popular diet is on the rise– amounting to around 79 million vegans around the world as of 2021.
Veganism: A Food Revolution
Veganism was a term to describe vegans who consumed only non-dairy products. Then in 1951, the Vegan Society changed its definition to “...excludes all forms of animal exploitations.” Today, it is a way of living where one abstains from animal products, particularly diets. Some vegans even refrain from using products that are derived from animals, tested on animals, etc.
Is Veganism The Savior— Can It Help Save Our Planet?
Meat production is not a model of sustainability– livestock consumes a wealth of resources and produces massive amounts of pollution and waste, leaving significant environmental impacts—particularly the emission of methane, a greenhouse gas emission 25 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide. Further, global livestock emissions total 7.1 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent per year– about 14.5% of worldwide GHG emissions. Gleaning from the numbers, meat production does not only destroy animal welfare but also threatens the environment.
The modern food system is shattered and the planet is suffering as a result. Restricting animals from our recipes may not alleviate all of the ills of society, but it is an effective strategy to decrease our environmental impact and mitigate climate change. In that spirit, we have gathered some impressive environmental impacts of going vegan– hopefully, inspire you in making the plant-based switch.
- Reduces greenhouse emissions: Consuming meat increases the emission of greenhouse gasses. Rearing livestock alone can cause harm to the environment because of the waste produced by the farm animals. Switching to a plant-based diet would help mitigate the negative implications of food supply chains.
- Reduces energy consumption: Meat processing consumes tons of energy– about 31.5 kilowatts of energy is needed to make one pound of beef—almost the same amount of energy a refrigerator would need to run for a month. Switching to plant-based alternatives can shave down the energy usage and also the greenhouse emissions from burning fossil fuels.
- Prevents extinction of animal species: Millions of animals are mercilessly slaughtered for meat supply every year. If we resort to plant-based meals, we can save about 100 animals per year, and also prevent the risk of lopsided fauna.
- Conserves water: Our planet has only 3% of freshwater, with about 70% of it used for agriculture. And within that, around 41% (approx) goes to the rearing of livestock. This disrupts the balance of sharing water. Changing our consumption habits and switching to plant-based meals can help save a significant amount of water.
Despite the pressing issue to transform global dietary behaviors, meat consumption continues to skyrocket. The United States itself has one of the highest rates of meat consumption in the world with per capita consumption of around 97 kilograms of meat between 2018-2020. Fortunately, more Americans are evolving to a more sustainable diet– over 9.7 million identified as vegans.
Plant-based products have a lesser environmental footprint than animal products. Reports reveal that if the entire world population were to become vegan, it could reduce about 66% of greenhouse gas emissions and save 8 million lives by 2050.
Every last human would be vegan in an alternate universe, eradicating meat and its role in climate change. While such a reality is purely wishful, with only around 1% vegan around the world, what we can all do is try our best to become a little more vegan!
Related article: 5 Restaurants in LA that serve Vegetarian and Vegan Friendly food