Veganism: damaging or beneficial to the environment?

More and more people every year are turning to a vegan diet. Some are doing it for health reasons, some are doing it for moral reasons, and some are doing it for the ‘trend’. The veganism community is growing by the day and is gaining a lot of recognition over social media, namely Instagram being their primary platform with around 92 million posts containing vegan recipes and facts. Ella Woodward (@deliciouslyella) is the most followed vegan influencer on Instagram with 1.4m followers. She makes vegan foods which are all plant-based and has cookbooks, an app and a podcast.

In a 2018 study it was shown that, from the previous years, 600% of people in the US had turned to a vegan diet (Global Data report). 350% of people in the UK had turned to a vegan diet as well (Vegan Society).

Veganism has been shown to actually help the environmental issues happening in the world right now, with statistics stating that by more people maintaining a plant-based diet, gas emissions and agricultural farming are going down. A statistic shows that the farming industry as a whole is producing 15% of greenhouse emissions alone.

“If one person exchanges meat for a vegan diet, they’ll reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 tons per year… If every American dropped one serving of chicken per week from their diet, it would save the same amount of C02 emissions as taking 500, 000 cars off the road… One calorie from animal protein requires eleven times as much fossil fuel as one calorie of plant protein… The diets of meat eaters create seven times the greenhouse emissions as the diets of vegans.”

Culinary Schools

These kinds of statistics make it easy for people looking to take veganism on to see the reduced impact on the environment they would be contributing towards too. As Extinction Rebellion is now a huge organisation, especially for younger generations, it is more appealing for people to want to drop their meat diets and convert to a vegan diet.

Animal products are also a huge factor in the planet’s emissions. “The meat, egg and dairy industries produce 65% of worldwide nitrous oxide emissions. Nitrous oxide is 300x more powerful at trapping heat in the Earth’s atmosphere than carbon dioxide,” says Culinary Schools. Seeing these statistics, it’s not a question as to why people are keener to look into vegan diets, especially as climate change is a huge problem in the media today.

Curly fries. Image by Chloe Bransom

However, there is a lot of stipulation about the plant-based diet. Some claim that instead of being beneficial for everyone, it’s actually severely hurting developing countries rather than improving them.

With quinoa being one of the most, if not the most, popular foods for a plant-based diet, farmers are struggling to keep up with the demand for the product. By having to mass produce the ingredient, the soil they are using is turning dry and unusable because of the sheer amount needed by the consumers.

Quinoa farming is also a big user of water waste which people are arguing could be given to developing countries rather than being used on developed countries. Another downside to more land being needed for the growth of quinoa is that llama’s share the same land for grazing and living, leading llamas without any grazing opportunities and farmers selling their llamas so that they have more land to produce on. This is just one example of how a plant-based diet can not only ruin the environment and land, but also make animals homeless and potentially extinct.

The soybean is another popular ingredient in the vegan diet. It is used in a wide range of vegan dishes. The ingredient is found and grown in fields and rainforests and is also used in animal feed on farms. The extreme demand for soybeans is causing deforestation as trees harbouring the ingredient are being cut down more rapidly as the demand for it increases. This is a huge factor contributing to the environment being destroyed and again leaving animals without a home.

A study by the Independent reported that; “Kenya – the world’s sixth largest exporter of the fruit – banned exporting avocados because the country’s supply is at risk”. As many vegan diets are taken on by people in countries such as the UK and the US, it is quite obvious to see how our want and need for this newfound way of living is hurting the countries we export these goods from.

It isn’t only just the developing countries that are hurting though, the Independent stated that; “Australia is also short of the green stuff too, which is causing self-imposed rationing in Queensland as prices have doubled per tray in a year up to $95 (£54)”.

Both sides of the argument have very strong points and evidence as to how veganism is helping the environment as well as destroying it at the same time. This has called the UN to come up with a revised plan on how people can eat both meat and vegan diets efficiently, ensuring to avoid as much damage to the environment as possible. The plan suggests a ‘mostly plant-based diet’, ‘seasonal and local foods’, the ‘reduction of food waste’, and buying and eating fish from ‘sustainable stocks’ as well as ‘red and processed meat’.

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