Environmental Benefits of Adopting a Vegan/Vegetarian Diet

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Vegans are often held to a higher standard when it comes to dietary ethics, be it the environmental impacts of their food choices, animal welfare or health benefits. We all have our own line in the sand, we do what we can given our circumstances and our resources.

Here are some of the ways a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle can be beneficial not just to our own health as individuals or in terms of animal husbandry but for our environment and the world’s populations too.

First, water.

img_6549(Graphic from Vegan Community)

This is quite a startling graphic given the water shortages in some parts of the world. And it doesn’t end there.

Chemical run-offs from farming and processing livestock also contaminate water supplies.

Climate:

Intensive livestock farming and its support infrastructure are a major contributor in the production of greenhouse gases, both from the production of methane but also from transportation, and at current rates this could rise by 50% by 2050. According to a Guardian Environment article which quotes a study from Oxford Martin School, ‘adoption of a vegetarian diet would bring down emissions by 63% by 2050.’*

I have seen many articles like this from various sources advocating the reduction of meat and dairy consumption for environmental reasons and the knock-on beneficial effects on human health.

Deforestation:

According to the film Cowspiracy, beef production accounts for 90% the destruction of Amazon rainforest. Many activists have lost their lives or been injured in land disputes with meat producers and indigenous peoples removed from their land.

Growing Food to Feed Animals to Feed Us!

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One of the reasons I first became vegetarian many moons ago was because it didn’t seem right to me that so much land was given over to growing crops to feed animals to feed us when we could just cut out the middle ‘man’ and just eat the crops! When there are so many starving people, it seemed so inefficient and such a waste of resources.

Here’s another graphic to illustrate the point:

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Developing Countries Having to Grow Cash Crops for Animal Feed in Developed World:

Another reason I became vegetarian was that so many poor countries in the developing world have been forced to grow cash crops to sell cheaply to Western countries for animal feed in order to pay off unpayable loans when they should be using them to feed their own populations and earning appropriate prices.

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Overuse of Antibiotics and Bacterial Resistance:

A major concern for human health and that of livestock is the overuse of antibiotics. 

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This is a shocking statistic! This is bad for the animals, bad for the environment, bad for our health. There is widespread concern about resistance to antibiotics and this is the main reason, the antibiotics given to animals end up in our food and the bugs are getting wise to them.

Last but not least is the issue of genetically modified feed and hormones used in the meat and dairy industries. Wherever you stand on the use of GMOs in food, the widespread production of single crops and consequent depletion of the soil, there is great concern among the scientific community as well as environmentalists about how adding and removing genes to alter the behaviour of plants and crops will affect the behaviour of our own genes and dna, as well as that of the animals, birds and insects that feed on them and the consequent ecological ramifications.

Monsanto’s genetically engineered bovine growth hormone is banned in most industrialised countries but is widely used in the US dairy industry. Milk from such cows contains higher levels of a hormone linked to breast, prostrate, colon, lung and other cancers. *

Many other GMOs are banned in most other developed countries, being linked with various cancers and other inflammatory conditions, as well as environmental pollution and crop contamination, but deemed safe in the US. There is little to no regulation of their use and unlike European consumers who have food labelling, for the most part US consumers are not privy to the information. (For example, a US company is about to begin selling packaged GMO sliced apples that don’t go brown in some mid-Western stores but consumers will not be told which stores nor will they be labelled as such).

A series of programmes made about these issues were forced to be postponed and the makers threatened.

There is an informative post on this here by The Organic Consumers Association and another on Unregulated gene editing by Natural Health 365.

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Just after I published this post, I came across this quote on Instagram which starkly but neatly sums up all the issues:

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Finally, on a lighter note:

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https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/21/eat-less-meat-vegetarianism-dangerous-global-warming

https://ourgreennation.org/2017/01/02/gmos-in-dairy-institute-for-responsible-technology/

Copyright: Chris McGowan

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20 thoughts on “Environmental Benefits of Adopting a Vegan/Vegetarian Diet

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment. As you know, studies can be conducted and interpreted in many ways to suit many interests. Land use is just one of many factors to take into account in terms of human diets. Animal cruelty, human health the questionable ethics of agribusiness, the widespread use of chemicals and antibiotics also play a large part.

      Liked by 1 person

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