Vegan Option might Save the Environment, Studies Show

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Vegan Option might Save the Environment, Studies Show

A woman preparing a vegan inspired dish. / Photo by: Kirill Kedrinski via 123RF


Protein is a must for people who work out and need to bulk up. Meat, nuts, and fish can all offer a good amount of protein. However, recent studies show that meat may pose a bigger threat to the environment than seafood. According to Ma-Washington of Futurity, industrially produced meat and farmed catfish cause harmful effects to the environment. The study, to be published in the Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment journal, aims to expose the effects of animal protein production to the environment.

Meat Butchers the Environment


Ray Hilborn, a professor from the University of Washington, supports the consumer’s choice. He further stated, “If you’re an environmentalist, what you eat makes a difference. We found there are obvious good choices and really obvious bad choices.” The study was based on the ‘cradle-to-grave’ analysis that looks beyond the environmental effects involved in the process of making these products. Hilborn and his colleagues would like to call the attention of lawmakers by saying, “Policymakers need to be able to say, ‘There are certain food production types we need to encourage, and others we should discourage.'”

The effects were categorized into four groups which include energy use, greenhouse gas emission, contribution to excess nutrients, and potential to contribute to acid rain. The researchers began with 40 grams of meat the size of one hamburger patty and studied the amount of greenhouse gas this food produced. Eventually, they have been led to the discovery that shellfish, mollusks, and other captured fishes have the least amount of harmful effects to the environment.

Farmed catfish, shrimp, and tilapia, however, obtained the highest amount of energy because of the presence of constant water circulation. Moreover, the agriculture of catfish and production of beef proved that they have the highest amount of greenhouse gases than farmed salmon and chicken. Livestock, however, was discovered to emit methane which made them rank poorly in the acid rain category.

Meanwhile in Europe, the executive branch of the European Union has agreed to enforce a common agricultural policy after 2020. As mentioned in Bob Doherty’s article, “Its aim to make sure that the CAP continues to support farmers and rural communities, that it leads the sustainable development of EU agriculture, and that it reflects the EU’s ambitions on the environmental and climate change. Across the years 2021-2027, the proposed CAP’s total budget will be around €365 billion.”

One of CAP’s promises is geared towards the environment to address the decline of pollinating insects. This means exploring the overuse of pesticides that has led to almost half of the extinction of flying insects. Furthermore, global food and farming products have been contributing to around 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. The CAP, however, failed to mention any factors targeting soil degradation and erosion from farming. The EU had been silent on the topic of preserving healthy soil, water, and biodiversity since 2006.

Go Vegan or Lose Your Home

A woman making a vegan salad. / Photo by: Andrii Kucher via 123RF


Joseph Poore, a researcher from the University of Oxford, claims that the best way to help Mother Earth is by going vegan. He stated, “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use. It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.”

Environmental damage can also be obtained from consuming low-impact animal meat like grass-fed beef. With the Earth’s growing population, Poore believes that an animal-based diet cannot sustain all of them. For industries and companies, however, he suggests indicating the environmental impact on labels for consumers to make their decisions wisely.

Poore and his colleagues provided a few suggestions on which kinds of food have the least harmful effect to the environment. Soy milk is at the top of the list, which is a great alternative for cow’s milk and if the consumer is having a hard time quitting on dairy. Rice, on the other hand, has been knocked off the list and instead has been replaced by maize, wheat, rye, and cassava. The oils emitting the most greenhouse gases are palm, soybean, and olive. For vegetables, one would be surprised to see that the famous fruit, commonly used as a vegetable, checks off four of the five categories listed by Rau Hilborn. It is also important to watch out for fruits such as berries, aside from bananas and citrus fruits, that are almost as bad as beef production in most metrics. Lastly, caffeine lovers may now rejoice as coffee is proven to have minimal effects on the environment.

The last decision is still upon the consumers. They can now choose to have a better impact on the environment, or continue with their consumption of meat and other products. One of the goals in Hilborn and his colleagues study was to make a project that would convince and enlighten the people of the misfortune that comes with food production. He claimed the study as a “method (that) gives us a really consistent measurement people can relate to” which not only helps the environment, but as well as everyone’s health.





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