According to a study published in the Lancet, one of the oldest and most prestigious peer-reviewed medical journals, vegan eating has less of an environmental impact than a Mediterranean-style diet or the diet recommended by the U.S. government. Much less, in fact.
Led by Nicole Blackstone, the study assessed six categories of environmental impact: land use, water depletion, climate change, respiratory inorganics, marine water eutrophication, and freshwater eutrophication. Plant-based eating had up to 84 percent less impact than a diet that includes animal products in all but one category.
Meat, dairy, and egg production has been exposed as unsustainable before. Researchers at the University of Oxford found that ditching animal products could reduce your food carbon footprint by 73 percent. They also found that if everyone ate plant-based, global land use for food could be reduced by 75 percent. This is comparable to the land covered by the United States, China, Australia, and the European Union combined.
Similarly, a recent report from Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return reveals that the meat industry was jeopardizing the Paris climate agreement by failing to properly report its emissions, despite being a leading contributor to climate change.
The fact is that raising animals for food produces more greenhouse gas than all the cars, planes, and other forms of transportation combined. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, emissions from raising farmed animals make up about 14.5 percent of global human-induced emissions, with beef and milk production as the leading culprits.
Plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy, and eggs take a mere fraction of the resources to produce as their animal-based counterparts. But plant-based eating isn’t just good for the planet—it also spares countless animals a lifetime of misery at factory farms.