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Why is being vegan eco friendly?

(49 Posts)
Pitapotamus Sat 27-Apr-19 23:04:06

Something I’m struggling to understand despite my google research is the fact that apparently eating meat is considered bad for the environment and being vegan is much better.

As I look out of my window I see nothing but countryside, farmed countryside, mainly sheep and dairy and cows. If that countryside wasn’t farmed because everyone was vegan what would it be?

Also, how is eating lamb and drinking milk (all of which were produced on your doorstep more or less) worse than drinking soya milk which is imported from abroad?

Many of our neighbours have boxes of eggs at the end of their driveways with an honesty box. Seems pretty eco friendly but it’s not vegan. We even have a local dairy farm with a fridge and an honesty box for milk.

I read a study on bbc news produced by one of the universities that said that the carbon footprint from meat and dairy etc is loads worse than the carbon footprint from a plant based diet. Surely the plants have to be harvested using diesel powered machinery and then transported etc. I just don’t really “get it” and I would be grateful to anyone who could give a simple explanation!

OP’s posts: |
StylishMummy Sat 27-Apr-19 23:29:14

Because it gives hipsters something faddy to be self righteous about.

Buying high quality meat and diary products is better than buying avocados with millions of food miles that are picked by workers paid pennies.

But let the vegan warriors descend wink

Putthatlampshadeonyourhead Sat 27-Apr-19 23:31:21

It's not.

Eating locally produced meat, vegetables, fruit, eating things that are in season in your loack area or at least this country, etc is far better for the environment.

PickAChew Sat 27-Apr-19 23:32:38

What do you think the animals that you eat are fed? Yes, some of it is local grass, but the rest of it has to be grown elsewhere, particularly in winter.

Good0mens Sat 27-Apr-19 23:38:10

It's not a fad or a conspiracy. It's simply the facts. I understand not everyone wants to eat a plant based diet and that is your choice. But claiming a meat and dairy based diet is better for the environment is simply deluded.

RedLemon Sat 27-Apr-19 23:39:15

I think if you were comparing like with like then plant-based is better for the environment. So if it’s a choice between locally grown fruit and veggies or locally grown beef and milk then the veg wins due to methane emissions and larger amounts of land needed for animal farming.
That being said, small scale animal farming with veg, orchards and plots of meadow & native woodland all rotated about sounds pretty environmentally-friendly to me. Not sure how well you could sustain large numbers of people with it though.

RiaOverTheRainbow Sat 27-Apr-19 23:39:19

Air miles and such complicate things but in short, it's more energy efficient to feed plants to humans than to feed plants to animals and then animals to humans.

Lots of energy gets 'lost' at each step in the food chain, so if a cow eats grass then walks around a field, that's energy that won't end up in a burger.

If I've remembered my GCSE biology right, a crop field big enough to feed 100 people would only feed 10 people as a livestock field.

BikeRunSki Sat 27-Apr-19 23:40:39

Very, very broadly, land that is used to graze animals, and grow animal feed, could be used to grow grain to feed a lot more people than those animals could feed. So, a plant based diet could be a more efficient use of land in terms of feeding people.


Importing food that is not grown locally completley obliterates this. Unfortunately, a UK grown, plant based diet doesn’t contain anything like avocado, quinoa, sweet potato, soya etc and would be really boring - but all these things, and much fruit and salad- come with a lot of food miles attached.

Teacakeandalatte Sat 27-Apr-19 23:41:15

Vegan isn't automatically eco friendly but it's still more likely than the sort of industrial meat farming needed to produce meat and animal products on the scale we are at the moment and for our ever increasing population. But I do believe meat can be produced in an eco friendly way on a smaller scale.

Ylvamoon Sat 27-Apr-19 23:42:29

I think that good quality local produced food is better than anything that is imported from abroad.
Buying directly from the farmer (in its raw unprocessed way), is always better than anything bought in a supermarket.

Putthatlampshadeonyourhead Sat 27-Apr-19 23:45:31

Yes the meat industry isnt great for the environment. Even locally.

However if you committed to eating only local and in season food, food with minimal air miles you wouldn't get all the nutrients you need.

That's why I (lucky because I live rurally) choose to do this instead, as much as possible.

We even grown a lot of our own on an allotment. Again I think we are lucky to have that.

babyworry2018 Sat 27-Apr-19 23:46:38

Interestingly food miles aren't as straightforward as you might think. Someone wrote a book a few years ago which included the fact that eating New Zealand lamb in Scotland was environmentally better than eating Scottish lamb from a carbon perspective. The theory - though I don't know how it applies to lamb- is that in a lot of cases the carbon from Shipping for a crop that grows abundantly is less than a locally produced product that requires, say, feed being shipped in, or heating lamps through winter, etc etc.

It's all not that straightforward, but ultimately you'd have to be eating a 99% avocado diet to match the carbon footprint of someone eating locally sourced meat and veg.

I'm not a vegan, personally I think eating less meat, and making it local and organic, is the most sensible option for most - if 90% of people ate meat once a week it would be a lot better than 10% never eating it and everyone else having it twice a day . But the vegan diet from a metric point of view has less of an impact than one containing meat.

Pywife2 Sat 27-Apr-19 23:48:23

I'm not a vegan but it stands to reason that feeding vegetable matter to animals and then eating them is using far more of the planet's resources than just eating vegetable matter ourselves.

As for the lovely countryside you see when you look out of your window, don't confuse it with a natural environment. Leaving aside the fact that you're not seeing the millions of animals living under factory farm conditions, the rural landscape in the UK is a heavily managed, man-made environment with very little space for nature and wildlife. If it wasn't, you would see more trees and a genuine natural landscape, much messier and maybe less attractive to our eyes.

The air miles thing is a bit of a red herring because if that bothers you, you could be vegan and try to use local produce as well.

CaptSkippy Sat 27-Apr-19 23:49:48

I think about 80% of all food produced gets exported. I think that applies to meat, vegetables and fruit. We don't need the surplus to sustain ourselves, but it does sustain the economy.

OnlineAlienator Sun 28-Apr-19 00:48:26

It isnt.

It requires statistical jiggery pokery to make it stack up, e.g:

Using carbon/1 element as the only measure - stupid. Works on paper, but defies common sense and fails to take in other factors.

More 'efficient' to feed people crops rather than animals - this relies on the assumption that aninals eat human grade feed, when in fact they are for the most part hoovering up byproducts from our food production. It also ignores the impact of ploughing, diesel etc., all sacrificed for the great mythical god of 'efficiency'.

The rest relies on sheer ignorance of the food system, like the comment upthread about aninals needing to eat crops grown elsewhere, especially in winter. Nope, they can eat the same locally grown grass preserved for winter, or the same byproducts generates by our year-round eating habits.

When you think about it seriously, it all breaks down: in a fossil fuel free age, what were we eating? Meat, and plenty of it. Our ancestors didnt have shit to waste by frittering it away on aninals, so thet must have had good reason (namely, it being efficient and easier than grafting over crops). Now we have abundant fossil fuels, we live mostly on grain facilitated by that. Toast, granola, porridge, followed by cakes, biscuits or pastries, wraps and sandwiches for lunch, then whatever accompanied by chips, rice, pasta etc.

Animals can exist in natural habitats - grass and woodland. There are no natural turnip fields. Animals are used to manage habitats for wildlife. There are no 'conservation potatoes'. Seeds grown for birds are there because we stole grass and woodland for crop production, and humans dont eat them: it's a sop.

Pitapotamus Sun 28-Apr-19 11:23:13

I get some of the points some of you are making but not others. As a poster mentioned up thread, most farmers make hay while the sun shines and store it for winter rather than buying it in. If they buy it in, normally it’s from another farmer just down the road.

Also, I don’t get the point about animals eating plants and then us eating the animals being an inefficient use of the land. Try and grow grain on the welsh mountains - you can’t, but you can graze sheep there. It’s the only “use” of that particular land.

The point about if there weren’t farms the land would be left to genuine nature I do get. It wouldn’t be managed but I guess I was seeing that as a bad thing and actually it might be a good thing.

Maybe the answer is to eat locally where possible and organic where possible. Organic farming is much more than simply not using pesticides etc. But not using pesticides does allow all types of forna like dandelions and meadow type flowers to grow which much be good for bees etc.

All in all I think you’ve helped me conclude that it’s not the simple “vegan is eco friendly, meat is destroying the planet” analysis that the media are touting at the moment. It’s a lot more complicated than that!

OP’s posts: |
thedevilinablackdress Sun 05-May-19 08:57:46

This Lancet commission report concluded that a plant-focused diet (not entirely eliminating meat) is the best option for the planet and health:

itseasybeingcheesy Sun 05-May-19 09:06:27

Im not vegan.... but the reasons it is environmentally better to eat a very low/ no meat diet are because of the nature of industrial farming and the fact that we hugely over consume meat.

It takes over 60 gallons of water and huge amounts of food and grassland to provide enough meat to create one single beef burger. Of course in reality that significantly more because you don't raise a beef burger you raise a cow but that's the visualisation, that to eat one beef burger you have to use 60 gallons of water plus tonnes of feed and land. Plus transport, packaging etc.

Then also there's the fact that livestock produce a lot of methane that damages the ozone and also that often the livestock poo contaminates local water sources.

Approximately one third of all food that is grown in the world goes towards feeding livestock. Which yields a fraction of the amount of animal meat. It's very unsustainable because of this.

If people shifted their eating habits to eat a other portion of non meat and a smaller portion of meat throughout their week then nobody would really need to be vegan because everyone would be eating reasonably.

In an ideal world a person would consume meat a couple of times a week, and would buy that meat locally to negate packaging and air miles and the rest of their diet would offset the massive amount of food and water wasted to achieve the amount of meat they purchased.

itseasybeingcheesy Sun 05-May-19 09:09:28

And also if the land wasn't farmed people would live in a less condensed and less polluted environment because they would spread out slightly more and have more outdoor space available as opposed to the formula we have now with new builds crammed on top of each other with tiny gardens and therefore nowhere to grow your own veg if you wanted to or keep a couple of small animals.

The rest of the land would be reclaimed for natural habitats and creatures like bees would go back to thriving because of better access to food sources.

Fazackerley Sun 05-May-19 09:14:39

Youd be looking at acres of poly tunnels if meat and dairy farms were eradicated.

PinguDance Sun 05-May-19 09:27:29

It’s quite possible that for you in your particular circumstances, being vegan wouldn’t mean a significant reduction in your personal environmental footprint. On the whole though I don’t see why people are quite so resistant to the idea they should be eating less/no meat. On a global scale meat and diary consumption is causing all sorts of issues - read this.

Also presumably in a (environmentally) best case scenario you’d look out your window and see actual wild countryside in the absence of farming

PinguDance Sun 05-May-19 09:32:08

Also I’m not a vegan as I do eat eggs and cheese, and meat on occasion, although I have massively cut down. it does open up a whole new world of environmental angst though, eg. I judge vegans who use almond milk as I know it’s a massive waste of resources. It gets very complicated and I decided I’d rather eat butter form the UK than vegan spreads that come
In plastic tubs. However overall I don’t understand the hostility towards vegans.

Porpoises Sun 05-May-19 09:33:23

Check out the rewilding movement. The idea is that it would be much better for biodiversity if we let some of our countryside return to wilderness. For example, if it became forest, it would provide a rich habitat, help absorb carbon from the atmosphere, and it would slow down rainfall from entering steams, so reduce flooding.

I don't think that we should have no animal agriculture at all. But you can feed people a lot more efficiently if they eat a mostly plant-based diet, which then gives enough space for nature too.

SimonJT Sun 05-May-19 09:33:37

I have never eaten meat, as kids we ate a very small amount of ghee and eggs once or twice a week, I cut out the ghee years ago.

It’s a really comples issue. Lets take cows, and lets ignore welfare issues as they’re completely different to environmental issues. Cows eat a lot, as lovely as it is so see cows grazing their diet isn’t just grass and silage. They eat a huge amount of soya and canola, these crops require fertile land and a hell of a lot of water. If a field of soya could meet the protein requirements of ten cows destined to become beef that same field can meet the protein requirements of 100 people. 90% of all soya grown is to feed livestock, 50% of all grains and 40% of all fish are feeding livestock.

If we stopped eating animals we could feed ourselves and actually still use less land, if we weren’t faddy and ate a more seasonal diet we could also waste less water and reduce food miles.

The soya that is currently grown for live stock could provide enough protein (and fibre) to nourish 1.29 billion people per year, that same soya and grain (combined) eaten by livestock (largely cattle) can only nourish 800 million people per year once it becomes meat. Thats a significant difference.

But whats scarier is that grain going to live stock could feed over five billion people per year!

PinguDance Sun 05-May-19 09:36:06

This was actually the article I was thinking of though the water one I linked above is also really interesting/ scary.

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