In a time when everyone is looking at the carbon footprint of their own lives, just what can help us reduce our impact on the environment?

Experts in the field are suggesting that reducing the amount of meat we eat, and therefore our support of animal agriculture, can make more of a difference than we think.

Understandably cutting out all meat can be quite a daunting task, but looking at the facts of the matter proves it can make a significant difference to our environmental impact as individuals.

Aside from travel, one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions is the meat trade. At the moment 40% of the world’s land surface is used for agriculture, the majority of which is used for keeping livestock. 

In 2016 alone in the US, animals such as cattle, sheep and goats produced 170 million metric tonnes of CO2e in Methane just through digestion. This massive number doesn’t include any emissions used on transportation or feed.

Meat and dairy in particular are harmful to the environment, and according to new research are responsible for 60% of agriculture’s carbon emissions. On a global scale, they account for between 15-18% of all human-induced greenhouse gases.

“If we care about protecting the planet – and the humans and other animals we share it with – going vegan is the logical choice.”

Elisa Allen

Elisa Allen, Director of PETA, said: “It takes more than 4,000 gallons of water per day to produce food for a meat-eater, whereas food for a vegan requires only 300 gallons.”

“Then there’s the energy it takes to operate factory farms, feedlots, abattoirs and trucks that transport animals – and the matter of all the edible crops used to feed farmed animals instead of hungry, malnourished humans.

“The UN has made it clear that a global shift towards a vegan lifestyle is necessary to alleviate hunger, fuel poverty and the worst effects of climate change, so what are we waiting for?

“If we care about protecting the planet – and the humans and other animals we share it with – going vegan is the logical choice.”

The idea of going vegetarian or vegan, however, can turn many people green, but that isn’t the suggestion here. Just reducing the amount of meat you eat could have a massive impact. Eating one vegetarian meal a week could save the GHG (Green House Gas) equivalent of driving 1,160 miles over the course of a year.

1kg of beef has the carbon footprint of driving 63 miles. The average British consumer, according to the National Beef Association, eats around 18.9kg per year. That’s the equivalent of driving 1,190 miles, or driving from London to Budapest.

In scientific terms, this is around 486 kg co2 in beef alone. If you were to replace all meat in your diet with chicken, you’d reduce your carbon footprint by that same amount.

It’s clear that you don’t need to completely cut meat out of your diet, which is an understandably daunting concept for many, but scientists have warned some changes must be made if we are to reduce the human impact on the planet.

There are other meat alternatives out there, too. Many of which pride themselves on having a low environmental impact.

Geoff Bryant, Technical director of Quorn, said: “Quorn believes we can no longer separate our own health from the health of our planet. Research commissioned by You Gov shows that for the first time, more people than not are now actively reducing their meat intake (52%), which is great news for the planet.”

“The biggest drivers of meat reduction are healthy eating and sustainability as people are beginning to recognize the impact of their diet on the planet. And 57% of people believe meat reduction would have a beneficial impact on the environment, this is up 7% YOY.”

The evidence suggests a shift towards less meat-orientated diets is necessary when it comes to the preservation of the planet, but that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone needs to change their diet dramatically.

More self-awareness and responsibility is the starting point of an already changing tide, that could see the country eating considerably more vegetables and vegetable based products in the years to come.

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