“The Vegan Society has recently relocated its Head Office from Surrey to Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. We welcome them to the city”
The environment is at last on the mainstream agenda. We are told to use low energy light bulbs and cut our use of cars and aeroplanes. However we don’t very often get told that livestock farming produces as much greenhouse gas as all transport put together.
The United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organisation report ‘Livestock’s Long Shadow’ states: “At virtually each step of the livestock production process substances contributing to climate change or air pollution, are emitted into the atmosphere.” The report concludes that 18% of total human induced greenhouse gas emissions are produced from livestock farming. This includes methane produced from cows, sheep and goats and nitrous oxide produced from manure.
Switching to a vegan diet will have a greater benefit on climate change than cutting car journeys.
The vegan diet is also a more efficient use of land and water. To produce a typical European omnivorous diet requires about 5 times as much land and 3 to 5 times as much water than a vegan diet.1
The benefits don’t stop there; about 60% of world deforestation has been to provide grazing for beef cattle2. Increased soya bean production has also contributed to deforestation, but 90% of soya protein is transported around the world to feed poultry, pigs and cattle. People often talk about eating locally reared meat but 70% of animal feed in Europe is imported3.
Eating fish is not the answer; the fishing industry globally burns about 13 billion gallons of fuel a year to catch 80 million tonnes of fish, which is 1.2% of global oil production4. Switching to farmed fish doesn’t help: for every tonne of farmed salmon produced, three to four tonnes of wild fish are caught to produce feed pellets5.
Some people argue that the way forward is local, free-range, organic livestock farming. In the UK only 5% of people buy free-range poultry. To switch all poultry production to free-range would require an extra 700 square miles of land6. There is simply not enough land for this method of farming7, and of course the animals would still be producing greenhouse gases.
Veganic or stock-free farming provides the solution. This method of farming produces vegetables, fruits and grains with no animal manure or artificial fertilizers. Instead it uses green manures and crop rotation and there are commercial farms in the UK operating to this standard8.
Still not convinced? Then check out research published in The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition9 which evaluated the environmental impact of seven different diets.
Their conclusion: the vegan organic diet had the least impact on the environment.
1 A method to determine land requirements relating to food consumption patterns, P.W. Gerbens-Leenes et al.
Nutritional water productivity and diets, D. Renault and W.W. Wallender.
2 Sustainability and integrity in the agriculture sector, Goodland and D. Pimentel.
Ecological integrity: Integrating environment, conservation and health, D. Pimentel, L. Westra, R.F. Noss, Island Press 2000.
3 European Parliament, Europe’s deficit in compound feeding-stuffs and agenda 2000.
4 Fueling global fishing fleets. Peter H. Tyedmers, Reg Watson and Daniel Pauly.
5 Feedlots of the sea, Worldwatch Magazine Sept/Oct 2003, J.C. Ryan.
6 BBC Countryfile. 18 March 2007.
7 Chris Lamb, Meat and Livestock Commission. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6295
9 European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2006. Evaluating the environmental impact of various dietary patterns combined with different food production systems. L. Baroni, L. Cenci, M. Tettamanti and M. Berati.