Vegan Diets Seen as Way Better for the Environment

Getting meat-eaters to cut down is like taking millions of cars off the road, say Oxford researchers
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 27, 2023 9:22 AM CDT
Vegan Diets Seen as Way Better for the Environment
Oxford researchers say vegan diets are better for the environment.   (Maya Carter/Asheville Citizen-Times via AP)

For anyone keeping score, this might be meat-eaters 0, vegans 1. A study spotlighted by the BBC found that following a vegan diet—eating only plant-based foods and excluding animal-derived products—can lead to considerable reduction in damage to the environment. In the UK anyway, getting carnivores to cut down on meat consumption translates to the equivalent of taking 8 million cars off the road, say the researchers from Oxford University. The Guardian reports the study, which was published in the Nature Food journal, examined the diets of 55,000 UK residents and folded in info from 38,000 farms in other nations. One key stat: A diet in heavy in meat produces 10.24kg a day of greenhouse gases, compared with 5.37kg for a low-meat diet and 2.47kg for vegans.

"If everyone in the UK who is a big meat-eater reduced the amount of meat they ate, it would make a really big difference," says lead researcher Peter Scarborough. "You don't need to completely eradicate meat from your diet." These new findings fall in line with previous research. A Washington Post column on climate change noted in May that a previous study by researchers from the University of Michigan—also published in Nature Food—looked at a massive trove of data on "the global burden of disease" and wondered about the toll some foods take on health and the environment. The Michigan team found that subbing as little as 10% of an individual's daily calories from red meat with nuts, fruits, veggies, or lighter protein like seafood didn't just have positive, or "profound" effects on health, it also took a big bite out of an individual American's carbon footprint.

Still, Nick Allen, who is the CEO of the British Meat Processors Association, tells the BBC that the Oxford study is unsatisfactory. "One of the frustrations with a report like this," Allen says, "is that it looks just at the emissions from livestock production." He believes it doesn't account for carbon getting "absorbed into the grassland, trees and hedgerows [on farms]." According to Allen, if the researchers "took those sums into account you would probably have a different picture." (More vegan diet stories.)

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