Going vegan for the environment

Animal agriculture is having a devastating effect on our environment, both here in the UK and globally; contributing to climate change, deforestation, water pollution and the depletion of natural resources.

Rearing animals for food is a terribly inefficient way to feed people. More than 70 per cent of all agricultural land in Britain is used to rear animals, yet they provide just a small fraction of our nutrient intake. The same amount of land could feed up to ten times as many people if used to grow crops for human consumption, rather than grazing animals or growing animal feed. In addition, much of this land could be converted back into forest land, which would have a positive effect on the environment.

This is all the more shocking when you consider that world hunger continues unabated and millions of people each year die of starvation. Yet in some countries, crops are grown to feed animals while local people suffer and die from hunger and disease due to lack of food.

Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of climate change. According to the United Nations, rearing animals for food is responsible for 14.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report from the UN (Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change) recognises the need for us to shift to a ‘sustainable healthy diet’, if we are to meet our commitments on tackling climate change.

“A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth.” – Joseph Poore, University of Oxford


Animal farming is also a huge waste of water. It takes 1,000 litres of water to produce one beef burger, but just 167 litres to produce a tofu-based equivalent. Dairy has also been widely noted as the most environmentally damaging milk, when compared to vegan alternatives, in terms of carbon emissions, water use and land use.

Intensive animal farming causes soil erosion and land degradation, and waste from intensive factory farms is one of the main causes of water pollution both in the UK and in other nations.

In South America, the rainforest is being razed to the ground, primarily to make way for cattle ranching and growing crops to feed farmed animals. In fact, research shows that the production of red meat accounts for 90 per cent of Amazon Forest deforestation.

Fishing trawlers, with nets the size of football pitches, rake the seabed, destroying entire ecosystems. Even world governments admit that our oceans are on the brink of environmental collapse, with commercial fishing fleets stripping them bare. In addition, discarded fishing equipment is widely recognised as being one of the biggest causes of ocean plastic pollution.

Some argue that fish farming is a sustainable alternative, but one in four wild-caught fish is used to make fishmeal to feed to fish on farms. Furthermore, pollution caused by fish farming produces a barren landscape on the surrounding seabed, as nothing can survive.

Going vegan can help to reduce your carbon footprint, cut your overall water usage, prevent further deforestation and reduce water pollution.

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