Welcome to the Environment section of our Learn page!
Whether you’ve got questions about veganism, or you’re a vegan looking for a great resource to point your family & friends towards – you’ve come to the right place.
This is an FAQ page to help tackle debates around the environmental implications of following a vegan diet.
Many don’t realise that the dairy industry IS the meat industry. This means that if land is to be cleared for meat, land is also cleared for dairy products.
The process of taking dairy from cow to customer requires a significant amount of water and land. Put simply, paying for dairy funds the meat industry and paying for meat funds the dairy industry, as they are one and the same.
Soya farming is seen as putting a strain on the environment, as it’s used as a meat-substitute. In reality, the vast majority of the world’s soya is grown to feed cattle, not humans. We also see soya in products that you would not expect, such as Oreos or even tinned steak. Ending the animal agriculture industry would significantly reduce the amount of crops needed. Fewer crops to grow would mean fewer natural habitats destroyed.
Here’s another example of a surprising product containing soya – a tin of tuna:
Credit: Green Dreams Detroit Blog, 2013
While it’s important to eat local & organic if possible, this unfortunately isn’t possible for all 7 billion people on this planet.
It will never be possible for the entire cow population to be grass-fed as there is not enough space. Even if this were feasible, cows produce harmful levels of methane contributing to global warming. Some would argue methane is even more damaging than CO2, due to its potency.
If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, here’s another great resource.
Here’s a useful resource from the BBC showing which milks are best for limiting your environmental impact:
Almond is the worst of the dairy-free milks. Despite this, it outperforms dairy in water usage, land usage and emissions created. See here for the full resource.
No vegans are claiming to be perfect. We’ll say that louder for those at the back – no vegans are claiming to be perfect.
International travel and consumerism are bad for the environment, and the tech industry is rife with humanitarian issues. However, just because you own an iPhone this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t “bother” being vegan. We live in a consumerist society and pretty much all of our actions cause harm. No one should strive for perfection, let’s just strive to do the best we can.
This conversation from The Good Place sums up how difficult it can be to always do the right thing. You can watch the full conversation in episode 10 of season 3:
Humans are leaving an irreparable footprint on this earth. We’ve created over-flowing landfills and wide-spread use of non-biodegradable materials. However, to say this is a bigger concern than the food we consume, is naive.
Animal agriculture permeates every aspect of environmental damage:
- Wild species are going extinct due to destruction of forests for animal grazing.
- Intensive use of pesticides is poisoning the soil.
- Chemicals and manure are polluting the oceans and creating dead zones in which marine life cannot flourish.
- Many animal products are packaged in single-use plastic – contributing to our waste problem even further.
- Cows and other farmed animals produce damaging amounts of greenhouse gases. For example, 105kg of greenhouse gases are the result of just 100g of protein from beef.
Pursuing a zero-waste lifestyle is a wonderful and worthwhile thing to do. But never underestimate how much a vegan diet can do for the environment.
For reasons unknown, there is less societal guilt over eating fish. We can speculate that people’s moral-reasoning is that they perceive fish to be less sentient than mammals, but why do we think it’s better for the environment to just eat fish?
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Studies have predicted that at the current rate we are fishing, we could see fishless oceans by 2048.
Plus, fishing nets catch and kill an obscene amount of marine life in the process, which is then discarded as a byproduct that was never intended to be caught, implicating further ecosystem damage. To add insult to injury, studies have found that fishing nets account for almost half of the ocean’s plastic! Something to think about the next time you order fish.
It does seem hard to believe that us purchasing animal items can have a detrimental impact on the environment. After all, “the meat is already on the shelves” and the “milk has already been bottled up and ready to sell”. What does this have to do with rainforests being chopped down or global warming?
Well, purchasing power is signfiicant and when we purchase items we are increasing demand for that product.
So the more we as a whole demand meat products (especially with a growing population). The more land is cleared to make way for cattle rearing, dairy and so on.
Similarly to fish, many hold the consensus that eating chicken is a more sustainable alternative to other products such as beef or pork etc.
While there is some truth to this, chicken agriculture is still devastating to the environment. Contributing to methane emmisions that have the potential to exacerbate global warming and the manure offspill contributes to aquatic dead zones.
See this very insightful piece about chicken production here.