World Food Day: going vegan can combat global warming, says expert

16 October 2018

The largest analysis to date of the impact of animal products on the planet found that avoiding meat, fish, eggs and dairy is the best way do to reduce the environmental footprint.

Going vegan could help reduce the pace of global warming, says the author of a food impact report who is so convinced by his findings he has ditched meat and dairy product himself.

Speaking on World Food Day, Joseph Poore, the co-author of the study, Reducing food's environmental impacts through producers and consumers, said animal product is doing a 'lot more damage than we expected'.

Mr Poore, a researcher at the University of Oxford, said if the world's population adopted a vegan diet, global greenhouse gas emissions would be cut by 25 per cent - and 3.1 billion less hectares of land would be needed for farming.

"I was interested in exploring whether it was possible to eat sustainable animal products and the answer we came to was a very strong no," said Mr Poore, who has himself adopted a vegan diet.

"Even the best farmers were still doing a lot more damage than we expected."

There are five main problems associated with the production of meat, fish, eggs and dairy, said Mr Poore.

According to his study, it takes feed to produce meat, thereby making it a less efficient process, plus you need to clear more land, it results in higher wastage, and both animals and animal processing create emissions.

Globally, cattle rearing generates more global warming greenhouse gases than transportation, according to the UN.

One dairy cow can drink up 190 litres of water a day, according to experts, which equates to 2,585 litres of water to produce just 4 litres of milk.

And a startling 66 per cent of agricultural deforestation is for animal products – for either feed or pasture, found the study.

"You can have all this extra land that you need and you have to clear more rainforest or forest which releases a lot more carbon as well," said Mr Poore.

"The carbon that is stored in the trees is either burnt and goes into the atmosphere or is left on the ground and goes into the atmosphere, so you lose a lot of potential carbon storage."

This is just one of the reasons why going vegan would make a massive difference to the escalating problem of global warming.

For one, it would result in 3.1 billion hectares less land for food production, said Mr Poore.

"That is the size of United States, Europe, China and Australia combined," he said.

"It would cut our global greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent."

Many vegans in Dubai are sharing the story that changing your diet is not just good for your own health - but that of the planet.

Sarah Williams was never a huge red meat eater, but reading a report about its impact on the environment was the motivation she needed to cut it out for good.

According to that study – the largest analysis to date of the impact of animal products on the planet – avoiding meat, fish, eggs and dairy is the best thing someone can do to reduce their environmental footprint.

The study, published in the journal Science in June, found that the production of animal products occupies 83 per cent of the world's farmland, and contributes 56 to 58 per cent of food's different emissions.

Yet they only provide 37 per cent of our protein intake and 18 per cent of our calories.

And it is just the latest in a string of findings to point to the same conclusion.

It was this growing body of research that made Ms Williams, a self-confessed cheese and poultry lover from California who lives in Dubai, reconsider her diet.

"I now avoid beef entirely, and have drastically reduced my poultry and cheese consumption."

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