Limiting meat in one’s diet can significantly decrease greenhouse emissions.
Recent headlines across many news sources have been filled with warnings of intensified heat waves sweeping the globe. The reality is apparent that the climate crisis is in full swing, as temperatures reach unprecedented heights worldwide. Although the urgency of this news has been undeniably frightening, there remains hope. People may not have the power to turn back time and avoid the crisis altogether, but they do have the power to change their diet, and this has much more of an impact than previously thought. Breaking research through the University of Oxford has revealed that reducing meat consumption has a remarkably net positive effect on the environment. Those who follow a completely plant-based diet emit 75 percent less greenhouse gases than their meat-eating counterparts.
Professor Peter Scarborough, leader of the study and a professor of population health at Oxford, noted that even “small changes from being a high meat eater to a low meat eater can make a huge difference in environmental impact.” Scarborough and his study emphasize the direct connection between meat consumption and environmental footprint.
Experts have said there are essentially three primary reasons individuals choose veganism. Ethical vegans choose this diet to avoid contributing to the exploitation and suffering of animals. Health-conscious vegans adopt this lifestyle to improve their overall well-being and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Environmental vegans prioritize the preservation of the planet and recognize the detrimental impact of animal agriculture on climate change and natural resources.
In addition to reducing greenhouse gases, the research findings revealed that vegan diets significantly reduce water pollution and land use. A fully vegan diet slashes the destruction of wildlife by a whopping 66 percent and water use by 54 percent, as compared to a diet in which more than 100g of meat per day was eaten.
The truth remains that a fully vegan diet is not required to impose positive change on the environment and the climate crisis. When looking at the impact of individual foods on the environment in a 2021 study in the journal Nature Food, researchers from the University of Michigan found that by substituting only 10 percent of daily meat intake with fruits, nuts, legumes, vegetables, or even seafood, one could cut their overall carbon footprint by about one-third.
Moreover, the type of meat consumed makes a difference. Studies have shown that beef produces seven times more emissions than chicken. Previous research has also shown that organic pork, the lowest-impact meat, is responsible for eight times more climate damage than oilseed, the highest-impact plant.
In the University of Oxford study, also published in the journal Nature Food, Professor Scarborough said, “Our dietary choices have a big impact on the planet. Cutting down the amount of meat and dairy in your diet can make a big difference to your dietary footprint.”
Although researchers urge rich nations to “radically” reduce their meat and dairy consumption, some government officials remain hesitant to impose taxes and restrictions on meat and dairy products.