A study by the University of Oxford found that greenhouse gas emissions from cow’s milk were almost three times higher than from vegan alternatives.
The study compared the environmental impact of dairy, rice, soy, oat, and almond milks, measuring emissions and land and water use. In each comparison, dairy milk had a greater environmental impact than plant-based milk. Regarding land use, for instance, dairy milk uses more than 10 times as much as oat milk.
Commenting on the study, Dr. Adrian Camilleri of the University of Technology Sydney told BBC News:
The greenhouse gas emissions from milk are about 30 times higher than what people estimate. I suspect that most consumers underestimate the greenhouse gas emissions saved by switching from dairy milk to plant-based milk such as soy milk.
Written by Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek, the study concludes that “the lowest-impact animal products typically exceed those of vegetable substitutes, providing new evidence for the importance of dietary change.”
Poore told BBC News:
What we eat is one of the most powerful drivers behind most of the world’s major environmental issues, whether it’s climate change or biodiversity loss.
According to the study, more than half of food emissions come from animal products. All the high-protein plant-based foods in the study, including tofu, beans, and nuts, emit less greenhouse gas than the lowest-impact animal proteins. The researchers argue that cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce your carbon footprint from food by almost two-thirds.
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.
Animal agriculture’s environmental impact is enormous. In fact, a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finds that we may have as few as 12 years to cut global emissions by 45 percent to prevent global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avert a catastrophe.
There is no such thing as “sustainable” meat, dairy, and eggs, and plant-based alternatives take a mere fraction of the resources to produce as their animal-based counterparts.
But a vegan diet isn’t just good for the planet—it also spares countless animals a lifetime of misery at factory farms. Pigs, cows, chickens, fish, and other farmed animals suffer horribly. From birth to death, these poor animals are caught in a nightmare: cruelly confined, brutally mutilated, and violently killed.