The debate between a plant-based and omnivore diet adds to the confusion surrounding the relationship between food and environmentalism. In recent years, the United States has seen a 300% increase in veganism as more people have begun to adopt it as a diet and a lifestyle. Whether this choice is in regards to personal health, the safety of animals or merely morality, veganism not only contributes to the health of people and animals, but also to the health of our planet.
The environmental impacts of veganism promise a drastic decline in global warming by halting animal farming. According to veganism statistics, the United States currently houses over 9.7 million vegans, and studies show that with a number of just 350,000 following a plant-based diet, the effect on greenhouse gas emissions would equate to “moving 160,000 cars from the road, or about 400,000 to 500,000 single flights from London to Berlin.” This lifestyle promotes an end to animal farming, which is said to account for 14.5% of all greenhouse emissions, and serves as their second largest contributor.
Consequently, the greenhouse effect traps heat and alters weather conditions, as well as pollutes the air and contributes to increasing the rate of respiratory diseases. Additionally, the amount of resources required to raise livestock for human consumption consists of a third of earth’s land surface, a third of worldwide grain production and sixteen percent of worldwide freshwater, burdening the planet’s finite land and releasing 1,984 pounds of CO2e annually.
I believe that this perpetuates harmful living, since denying a meat-based diet would cause the planet to see a 96% reduction in these emissions and contribute to a healthier planet. A report by the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences states, “If we all went vegan, the world’s food-related emissions would drop 70% by 2050.” Based on these studies, it is evident that a plant-based diet may actually be the answer to partially solving climate change. All humans would have to do is sacrifice a diet they have gotten used to for the possible return of a greener, healthier planet that more generations would be able to enjoy in the future.
Despite evidence of veganism’s environmental benefits, some studies show the diet has its drawbacks. Researchers say it’s possible that the water use for vegan products significantly strains the earth’s resources and inflicts water shortages upon countries — almond milk requires 74 liters per glass, while a kilogram of avocados consumes close to 2,000. They defend animal farming, claiming that halting it not only harms more animals, but degrades the environment as well, and that meat consumption “is a more humane, ethical and environmentally-friendly dietary option.”
While veganism would certainly decrease carbon emissions and help to halt climate change, it isn’t necessary for everybody to resort to the diet. Other options that contribute to the health of our planet include supporting small businesses that raise animals free of hormones, reducing waste and water usage and donating to organizations such as the Wild Animal Initiative. Vegan diets should be encouraged, since they promote ethical agriculture and healthier lifestyles, but the planet’s safety is not dependent solely on its people’s choice of diet.