Following a vegan diet is the ‘single biggest way’ of reducing your carbon footprint, a new study has claimed.
Researchers at the University of Oxford found cutting meat and dairy from your diet can reduce your environmental impact from food by 73 percent.
Meanwhile, if everyone gave up eating processed meat, global farmland could be reduced by around 75 percent – the size of the US, China, Australia and the EU combined.
The new study, which was published in the Science journal, is one of the most comprehensive pieces of research carried out into the environmental impact of diet, and included data from almost 40,000 farms in 119 countries.
The new study claims a vegan diet can reduce your carbon footprint by 73 per cent. Credit: PA
According to the report, meat and dairy industries are responsible for 60 percent of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. It also claimed they provide 18 percent of calories and 37 percent of the world’s protein levels.
The study’s lead author Lead author Joseph Poore, said: “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication [when a body of water becomes overly enriched with minerals and nutrients, inducing excessive algae growth], land use and water use.
“It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” he explained, adding that this would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Avoiding consumption of animal products delivers far better environmental benefits than trying to purchase sustainable meat and dairy.”
Researchers also examined a total of 40 agricultural products, which account for 90 percent of all food that is eaten.
Could you eat this? Credit: PA
But as well as what food is eaten, it also analysed the effects of rearing methods on the planet. For example, cattle raised on natural pastures use 50 times less land than those on deforested land – which can lead to 12 times the levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
Poore’s study is the result of five years of work and he hopes the findings will have an effect on the way people consume their food, but isn’t holding his breath.
Speaking to The Independent, he said: “The problem is, you can’t just put environmental labels on a handful of foods and look to see if there is some effect on purchasing.
“Consumers take time to become aware of things, and then even more to act on them. Furthermore, the labels probably need to be in combination with taxes and subsidies. My view is that communicating information to consumers could tip the entire food system towards sustainability and accountability.”