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Climate Change and Veganism - What's the Connection

Making the connection between what we eat and the state of the planet

Veganism is a low carbon footprint diet, requiring less land, water and numerous other resources than other ways of eating and living and so is often associated with climate change. This causes problems for the climate change activists that enjoy eating meat, eggs and dairy. They don't want to make the connection and give up the things that they enjoy. It's not riding their bike to the train station instead of a stressful drive to work. It's not going on holiday in the UK instead of taking an expensive flight. Groups, like Extinction Rebellion, talk about using prayer in their activism, but changing what you eat for the sake of the planet is not mentioned. However, the connection between veganism and climate change is clear, animal agriculture has a significant negative impact on the environment, including greenhouse gas emissions.

A study published July 2023, found a very clear link between a vegan diet and lower rates of pollution, including carbon dioxide and nitrate production. The dietary data of 55,504 vegans, vegetarians, fish-eaters and meat-eaters, that also included the food-level data on greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, eutrophication risk and potential biodiversity loss from more than 100 countries was analysed. The writers of the study found that greenhouse gas emissions, land and water use increased according to the amount of animal products people consumed.

climate change protest
It's selfish to not change your behaviour when you have the choice

This Isn't New Information

The connection between animal agriculture and its environmental impact, including its contribution to climate change, has been a topic of scientific study and discussion for several decades. While it might not have been as widely recognised in the general population in the past, researchers and environmentalists have been aware of these issues for a significant amount of time.

Here are some key connections between veganism and climate change:

  1. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The livestock sector, including cattle, poultry, and other animals raised for meat and dairy production, is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock produce methane (a potent greenhouse gas) during digestion, and their manure also releases methane and nitrous oxide. These gases trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.

  2. Deforestation: To make room for livestock farming and the production of animal feed crops like soy and corn, vast areas of forests are often cleared. Deforestation not only releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but also reduces the planet's capacity to absorb CO2 through photosynthesis.

  3. Land Use: Following on from deforestation, is general land use related to raising animals for food. Animal agriculture requires large amounts of land for grazing and growing feed crops. This land use can lead to habitat destruction, loss of biodiversity, and soil degradation, all of which can exacerbate climate change and harm ecosystems.

  4. Water Usage: Livestock farming consumes significant quantities of water, both directly for animal hydration and animal care and indirectly for growing feed crops. The water footprint of animal products is higher than that of most plant-based foods, contributing to water scarcity in some regions.

  5. Energy Consumption: The production, processing, and transportation of animal products requires substantial energy resources. Reducing the consumption of these products would lower energy demands and the associated greenhouse gas emissions.

  6. Waste and Pollution: The waste generated by large-scale animal farming operations can lead to soil and water pollution, with harmful consequences for local ecosystems and communities. When soil is also polluted, damaging plants and animals as well as affecting how the land can be used in the future. Water pollution leads to dead zones where nothing, not plant or animal, can live.

Veganism, as a dietary and lifestyle choice, seeks to address these issues by avoiding the consumption of animal products. By doing so, vegans reduce their personal carbon footprint and environmental impact. Plant-based diets tend to have lower greenhouse gas emissions, use fewer resources, and cause less harm to ecosystems, compared to diets based on animal products. Many environmental organisations and experts advocate for reducing meat and dairy consumption as one of the strategies to mitigate climate change and promote sustainable agriculture. Those that don't advocate for these changes need to take a serious look at their true motivations. Are they seeking to make the world a better place or are they only wishing to exert their will on others, as they continue to do what suits them. While individual dietary choices alone may not solve the climate crisis, they can play a role when combined with broader efforts to reduce emissions from various sectors of society.

This is something that we need to do together.



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