Do vegans actually make a difference?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Do vegans actually make a difference?” and will discuss the various differences that can be achieved by going on a vegan diet.

Do vegans actually make a difference?

Yes, vegans actually make a difference. Just one month of veganism by the typical individual may save the lives of 30 animals. If you turned vegan for a year, decade, or your whole life, consider how many lives you could save in that same time frame!

According to a 2018 Gallup telephone poll in the USA, about 5% of the 1033 adults surveyed self-identified as vegetarians and 3% identified as vegans. Compared to a 2012 survey, these numbers are relatively unchanged. Among the age group 50 or younger vegetarianism was more popular (7–8%) as compared to those above age 50 (2–3%). In many other countries, vegetarianism is more prevalent. India ranks first among nations with the largest population of vegetarians with about 40% of Asian Indians identified as vegetarian (5).

Going vegan would save the lives of animals, sure, but it would also save the lives of the environment. To produce meat or dairy, enormous amounts of land and water are used. The carbon dioxide emissions you’d save by being vegan for a month would be equivalent to cutting down a forest by 913 square feet and 33,481 gallons of water (1).

According to Oxford University academics, adopting vegan is the single largest method to lessen your environmental footprint (1).

It may seem like being vegan will have little effect when your family, coworkers, and classmates all seem to be consuming animal products. But choosing a plant-based diet has a significant impact on the environment, animals, and may even improve your health in the long run (1).

Meat and dairy are known to have significantly higher impacts on the environment than other products. This is due to overgrazing, water contamination from waste runoff, biodiversity loss due to landscape conversion for grazing and feed production, and greenhouse gas emissions related to livestock digestion. Livestock production also requires caloric inputs in the form of grains, amounting to 45% of global grain production. Feeding grain crops to livestock is less efficient with regards to land, energy, and water use, than growing crops for direct human consumption, because only between 4% and 20% of all protein in cereal and leguminous grains fed to animals is converted to edible protein (2).

The animal’s lives are saved

Around a billion animals are born every year in the UK to be butchered for food, and that does not include fish, to which you may add 80 million per year. 2.5 million hens are murdered for meat every day, amounting to 30 fatalities every second, according to the Humane Society. The list continues to grow as you go through the many types of animals.

By beingEvery year you are vegan, you save the lives of many animalslives of 365 animals according to The Vegan Calculator, which is a significant statistic for vegans who chose the lifestyle for animal welfare reasons. Veganuary attracted a record-breaking 582,000 participants this year, with the group claiming that they rescued almost two million animals as a result of their efforts.

Individual decisions begin to accumulate and their ramifications become more palpable when we witness such large numbers. According to an estimative research of the non-profit organization Animal Charity Evaluators, an individual would spare about 105 vertebrates per year on average by adopting a plant-based diet.

 Even if cattle output is decreased by half, it is estimated that 12,000 species would be saved. Sure, we all recognize the world cannot become 100 percent vegan overnight. However, the number of vegans is increasing worldwide. Recent surveys from Western nations suggest that typically between 1% and 5% of the population are currently following a vegan diet (4).

The water is spared

Looking at how much water is used to bring those items to your plate reveals the inefficiency of meat production. While it takes 1,847 gallons of water to create one pound of beef, it only requires 39 gallons of water to generate the same amount of veggies.

What a disparity, and you may be perplexed as to how it’s even possible to account for it. Both the livestock drinking water and the water needed to cultivate crops for animal feed, as well as wastewater used in slaughter, are included in this water consumption.

Research shows that livestock is the greatest consumer of water per kg product. The demand for water related to livestock production is drinking and servicing. Livestock consumes water through drinking, grazing, supplemental feed, and metabolic water produced by oxidation of nutrients and loses water through respiration, evaporation from the skin, defecation, and urination. Each processing step, from shipping live cattle and slaughtering to trimming and curing meat, requires water inputs. While not all cattle are slaughtered for beef, even dairy production requires significant amounts of water, estimated at around 1020 L of water per kg of milk, with an even higher water dependency for derived products such as butter and cheese. Plant-based foods generally have lower water requirements, with vegetables requiring 15 L/kg product and fruits requiring 45 L/kg. However, vegans typically consume more nuts than omnivores, which require 9063 L/kg more water than milk does (2).

The grains are available

Grain is given to cattle to the tune of around half of the world’s total grain production. Why are we giving this to cattle when we could be providing it straight to the 800 million people across the globe who are starving?

Livestock production also requires caloric inputs in the form of grains, amounting to 45% of global grain production. Feeding grain crops to livestock is less efficient with regards to land, energy, and water use, than growing crops for direct human consumption, because only between 4% and 20% of all protein in cereal and leguminous grains fed to animals is converted to edible protein (2).

The effects on forests, land, and CO2 emissions

Every year, tens of millions of acres of forest land are removed to raise crops for human use rather than for pasture. Every second, an area of rainforest the size of one to two football fields is removed for this same purpose, at great cost to the surrounding fauna. Livestock takes up 85% of the land but only provides a third of the calories it consumes; this trend must be reversed.

Our food system’s greenhouse gas emissions will make up half of all human-caused global emissions by the year 2050. Over 70% of British land is dedicated to animal agriculture. The same amount of land might feed a lot more people if it were put to good use cultivating crops instead of raising livestock or being grazed.

Studies comparing greenhouse gas emissions of different diet show that a vegan diet results in the greatest reduction of emissions with a 21% to 70% decrease in GHG emissions and an average of 50% reduction relative to comparable omnivore scenarios. The three most common greenhouse gasses (GHG) related to agriculture are methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and carbon dioxide (CO2). Their impact on the atmosphere over 100 years is measured as global warming potential and standardized to CO2 equivalence, 1 ton of CH4 equal to 34 tons of CO2 and 1 ton of N2O equivalent to 298 tons of CO2. The absence of both meat and dairy in a vegan diet results in a GHG emissions of less than half of those of an omnivorous healthy diet (2). 

Trees in forests which absorb large amounts of greenhouse gasses, are cut down to feed grazing animals and various crops are grown for farmed animals. Animals and their manure are greatly responsible for production of greenhouse gasses into our environment. As per the data published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, animal agriculture is a vast source of methane. To protect the environment from this catastrophe, it is very much essential that people shift to plant-based food (3).

Other FAQs about Vegans that you may be interested in.

Does being vegan before 6 works?

Does vegan collagen work?

Does vegan leather stretch?

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Do vegans actually make a difference?” and discussed the various differences that can be achieved by going on a vegan diet.

References

  1. Carrington, Damian. Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’to reduce your impact on Earth. The Guardian, 2018, 31.
  2. Kustar, Anna, and Dalia Patino-Echeverri. A Review of Environmental Life Cycle Assessments of Diets: Plant-Based Solutions Are Truly Sustainable, even in the Form of Fast Foods. Sustainab, 2021, 13, 9926.
  3. Goyal, Anjana, et al. Vegetarians, vegans and the carbon footprint: An increased environmental consciousness among the youths. In J Health Wellb, 2020, 11.
  4. Sutter, Daniel Olivier, and Nicole Bender. Nutrient status and growth in vegan children. Nutr Res, 2021, 91, 13-25.
  5. Rocha, Jason P., et al. Multiple health benefits and minimal risks associated with vegetarian diets. Curr nutr rep, 2019, 8, 374-381.