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The Production Of Popular Vegan Foods

Vegan Diet Myth Busting: The production of popular vegan foods is just as bad as animal farming

The production of popular vegan foods

Part 4 of a mini-series on the myths about Veganism

While the idea of veganism has moved away from hippies and rabbit food, vegan myths and misconceptions aren’t exactly in short supply. Researchers from the University of Oxford suggest that eating a vegan diet could be the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on earth, in some cases by up to 73%, however many myths circulate that put people off giving it a go. This mini-series will attempt to debunk the most off-putting myths, in hope it will encourage readers to at least try a more plant-based diet.

Myth No.4: The production of popular vegan foods is just as bad as animal farming

Livestock farming is one of the biggest drivers of climate change, without a doubt. However, what some people do doubt, is the detriment to the planet of some plant-based alternatives such as: almond milk, soya production and so on. The myth to be busted in this week’s blog is whether the production of such foods, is just as bad as animal farming itself and therefore making veganism ineffective in reducing carbon emissions.

Eisen and Brown conducted an experiment where they predicted GHG levels if animal agriculture were to end completely for the rest of the 21st century. This would lead to a 25 gigaton annual reduction in carbon emissions, translating to around 70% of all anthropogenic CO2. That’s half of the emission reductions necessary to keep temperature rise  below 2°C. Therefore, even in the absence of any other emission reduction strategies, eliminating consumption of livestock products would lead to rapid drops in methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide levels. According to their results, it would equate to a 30 year pause in global heating from 2030-2060. In reality, it’s far too complicated and controversial to strip out all livestock production overnight, however the results clarify what will happen if livestock production doesn’t lessen, as well as how beneficial a vegan diet is for the health of the planet.

The problem is that diets are hard to change. In fact, the percentage of Americans following a plant-based diet has barely changed at all. In 2018, per capita American meat consumption was within two pounds of being the highest in U.S. history. Plant based meat alternatives are a modern solution to what is obviously a meat loving planet, and despite claims that the production output is just as bad, evidence says otherwise. Choosing “Beyond Meat” burger as an example, instead of a beef burger, reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 89% and water use by 87%. It’s clear by this one example, that whilst growing the grain / soya to produce meat alternatives does cause some carbon emissions, it’s nowhere near the amount produced through animal production. Pulses produce 0.9% CO2 per kg, vs 39.2% for lamb. Feeding massive amounts of grain and water to farmed animals before processing, transporting, and storing is extremely energy intensive. Moreover, forests, which are great absorbers of greenhouse gases, are cut down in order to supply pastureland and grow crops for farmed animals. Finally, the animals themselves and all the manure that they produce release further greenhouse gases into the air.

Of course, even with a vegan diet, one who is conscious of their carbon footprint, still needs to be aware of foods such as avocados and almonds, which use a lot more water to produce than other vegan foods. However overall, the production of animal-based food causes significantly greater greenhouse-gas emissions than the production of vegan foods. Researchers at Oxford University found that meat eaters are responsible for almost twice as many dietary greenhouse-gas emissions per day as vegetarians and about two and a half times as many as vegans. Ilmi Granoff from the Overseas Development Institute in the U.K. has urged officials to forget about coal and cars, because the “fastest way to address climate change would be to dramatically reduce the amount of meat people eat.”

Next week’s blog will discuss the effects on food supply and quality of life, if livestock production was the be reduced and whether vegan and vegetarian products alone can still help to end world hunger. The series covers the below topics in detail. Stay tuned for Part 5 next week!

  • Protein Part 1 (adequate levels of protein)
  • Protein Part 2 (inc. amino acids + complete proteins)
  • Essential Oils and vitamins/ minerals vs Overfishing
  • Animal Farming vs Grain Farming
  • Animal Farming vs Grain Farming Part 2

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