The vegan diet is gaining traction almost all over the world. While veganism is the fastest growing trend in the West today, it has been mainstream in India since the 6th century BCE. Have you ever been tempted to turn vegan? Or do you consider finding alternatives to dairy products that have been a part of your diet since your early childhood? Several health experts and environmental pundits advise that cutting down our meat and dairy consumption can do wonders for our environment. So, is going vegan is the answer to all the environmental problems? Let’s dig a little deeper to find the truth.
Emissions by Livestock
Statistics confirm that an average person consumes around 40kg meat per year. This number goes up to 80kg in developed countries. 15% of greenhouse gases emitted by humans come from livestock production. There are currently 1.5 billion cows in the world today. Each cow releases between 70 to 100kg methane while digesting every year. Moreover, livestock takes huge space, which is around 80% of farmland.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition highlights that a meat eater’s diet demands 17 times excess land, 14 times excess water, and ten times more energy than a vegetarian. As a result, the conversion of land into agricultural land is increasing, destroying the ecosystem and reducing biodiversity. On top of it, one-third of our food is wasted, which adds further to emissions. This all happens, while 850 million people remain undernourished.
Meeting only 18% of calorie requirements, livestock production accounts for 6 billion tonnes of GHG and makes for 60% of emissions from agriculture.
Relation Between Vegan and Emissions
A report from United Nations reveals that greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector could rise to 50% by 2050. Hence, the UN’s climate body IPCC recommends reducing meat consumption to lower the emission of greenhouse gases. However, livestock production is an interconnected system, and therefore reducing meat, and dairy intake will not wholly mitigate GHG emissions. Marco Springmann, Oxford Martin School’s Future of Food says that food emission will come down by around 60% by reducing the consumption of red meat alone.
What to do?
Nathan Cofnas, a doctorate student of philosophy of biology at Oxford University and author of a review on the subject, says that deviating from a typical to untested diet is like experimenting. So, there’s a lot more study that needs to be done in this area. Besides, when a large population shifts to a specific diet trend, which is vegan in this case, it raises the production of alternatives like almond and soy massively. Subsequently, large level production puts pressure on resources. On the other hand, raising livestock on a small level produces excellent quality meat and dairy products. Also, livestock raised on traditional grazing turns out to be efficient and more healthy for consumption.
A Question of Balance
In all, a plant-based diet has the potential to change the world. We can reduce our carbon footprint with veganism. However, following a particular diet trend does not only makes you deficient in several nutrients but is also dangerous for the environment. It could lead several communities to lose their cultural identities if there was no more meat. That said, it is essential to synchronize with the environment and encourage sustainable farming. There is nothing healthier than the local produce, not only for us but also for the planet Earth.