What you need to know:
- In the new study, the scientists indicate that the impact of low meat-eaters to the greenhouse gas emissions was 30 per cent lower compared to that of high meat eaters.
- The researchers argue that a vegan diet avoids all animal products, including meat, eggs and dairy therefore having less environmental impacts on land use, water and biodiversity.
At the entrance of the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) venue in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt last year, there was a subtle protest by vegans advocating for a shift to plant-based proteins.
Using air puppets, roll-up banners and placards, they hoped to pass a message to people who cared to take in their plea to either eat less meat, or none at all.
The move was led by campaigners of a Plant Based Treaty that they were pushing for during the climate summit.
“Cooking animals is literally cooking the planet and a death sentence for us all. The consumption of meat, dairy and eggs have contributed to catastrophic flooding, killer heat waves and droughts that leave our food system on the verge of collapse,” said Hoshimi Sakai, a Plant Based Treaty campaigner from Japan.
Despite people mostly ignoring the protesters or just taking photos with the air puppets, their plea has now been vindicated by a new study conducted by scientists from the University of Oxford.
Published in a peer-reviewed journal this month; Nature Food, the researchers say that one of the ways of saving the planet from the detrimental impacts of climate change is by reducing meat consumption and embracing plant-based dietary options.
The study was funded by UK-based organisations including the Wellcome Trust, Our Planet Our Health and Cancer Research UK.
“There is a strong relationship between the amount of animal-based foods in a diet and its environmental impact, including greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, eutrophication and biodiversity,” said the researchers.
The study, which was conducted in more than 100 countries, assessed about 38, 000 farms and meal options of more than 50,000 people. Participants of the study reported their meal plans in a span of a year and the scientists classified those in six groups: vegan, vegetarian, fish-eaters, and low-, medium-, and high-meat-eaters.
The researchers used this data to analyse the environmental impacts of those foods. “We found that even the least sustainable vegan diet was still more environmentally-friendly than the most sustainable meat eater’s diet. In other words, accounting for region of origin and methods of food production does not obscure the differences in the environmental impacts between diet groups,” said Keren Papier and Michael Clark study co-authors in a joint commentary published by the Conversation.
A report published by the Chatham House in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme in 2021 showed that food systems contribute to about 30 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.
In the new study, the scientists indicate that the impact of low meat-eaters to the greenhouse gas emissions was 30 per cent lower compared to that of high meat eaters.
The researchers argue that a vegan diet avoids all animal products, including meat, eggs and dairy therefore having less environmental impacts on land use, water and biodiversity.
A campaign that urged Kenyans to 'Eat Less Meat' spearheaded by the World Animal Protection in Nairobi last month aimed at raising awareness on the detrimental effects of high meat consumption amidst rising population, drastic climate changes, poor human health and cruel animal farming methods.
Speaking at the event, Dr Victor Yamo, food systems campaign manager at World Animal Protection, advised that to eat less meat, people can set aside a meat-free day, swap regular meat dishes with meat-free alternatives, reduce meat portions on their plate and talking to a nutritionists to advise them on meat-free protein alternatives.
“Over 50 billion farm animals are factory farmed every year, with around two in every three animals raised in intensive systems that prioritise production over welfare and health. This approach to farming places a heavy burden on precious resources, such as grain-based feed, water, energy, and medication, and contributes to a range of issues, including environmental pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, disease and food insecurity,” he said.