Meat-based diets substantially more harmful to the planet compared to vegan diets

Vegan diets are substantially better for the planet compared to highly carnivorous diets, a study published on Thursday said.

Diets completely free of any animal produce resulted in 75 percent less climate-heating emissions, water pollution and land use, than diets with a higher proportion of meat, a study published in the nature food showed.

Vegan diets cut the destruction of wildlife by 66 percent and water use by 54 percent, the study found.

Reviews of different diets have shown that vegan and vegetarian diets have “substantially lower” greenhouse gas emissions, land use and water use requirements than meat-containing diets, the study said. “…diets with reduced animal-based foods tend to be healthier and have lower environmental impact,” the study added.

Levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide, the three greenhouse gases emitted by human activity that are the most significant contributors to climate change, continued their historically high rates of growth in the atmosphere during 2022, scientists at the US’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in a report in April this year. The report said that CO2 is the far most important contributor to climate change.

To feed a growing population while trying to remain within the safe limits of greenhouse gas emissions, land and water use, water pollution and biodiversity loss, a change in diet is necessary, the nature food study found.

“Other means to reduce the environmental impact of the food system, for example, technological advances, closing yield gaps, reducing food waste, will not be enough without major dietary change,” it added.

The environmental impact of animal-based foods is generally higher than plant-based or vegan foods because of the processes related to livestock management, such high methane emissions from cows and the use of crops to feed livestock rather than for human consumption.

“Proposed diets for global sustainable food production require most high-income countries to radically reduce consumption of animal-based foods and converge on levels that are higher than currently consumed in many low-income countries,” the research found.

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