Embracing the plant power way for Veganuary and beyond
There are multiple reasons that someone might turn their back on eating meat. It could be for health reasons, to stand up for animal rights or, increasingly, because of growing concerns around the climate crisis; or perhaps a combination of all three.
Whatever the reasons, the figures for people cutting down on their meat and dairy intake speak for themselves. This January, the vegan charity Veganuary found that 350,000 people were officially taking part. It is likely that this figure is much higher however as it doesn’t take into account the number of people that didn’t register with the charity.
But how much impact does cutting out meat and dairy really have in terms of protecting the planet? A recent article from the Ecologist magazine looked at the 350,000 people taking part in this year’s Veganuary. It found that if all the participants stuck to their plant-based diet for the entire 31 days then they could save 41,200 tonnes of CO2eq. This is the same as 450,000 flights from London to Berlin.
It also found that they would spare 160 tonnes of PO43-eq (eutrophication) from waterways. This is the same as preventing 650 tonnes of sewage from entering our waterways. So, for those dubious of the real impact that switching to a plant-based diet has on the environment, the numbers really are undeniable.
So why is switching to a plant-based diet such an effective way to protect the environment?
Whilst it might not initially seem like the most obvious cause of climate damage, especially compared to the likes of petrol-fuelled road and air travel, animal agriculture has a much more significant impact than you may think. This is down largely to the amount of resources in the form of food and water needed to rear the animals. An influential 2010 study into the water footprint of different foods found that whilst vegetables had a footprint of about 322 litres per kg, meat production needed a whole lot more – chicken came in at 4,325 per kg, pork at 5,988kg and beef used a monumental 15,415 litres of water per kg.
To give these figures a bit of context, the planet is experiencing devastating droughts, fires rage across continents and water is becoming increasingly scarce. All the while, farming is estimated to account for as much as 70% of the planet’s water.
Surely, the intuitive thing to do then is to break the chain of diverting so much of the world’s water towards animal agriculture by cutting out meat entirely?
Quite understandably however, the thought of eliminating a massive element of many people’s diet is not so easy. Perhaps a more realistic goal therefore is to try to cut back on meat and dairy consumption instead and be more mindful about the amounts of meat that individuals consume every week. Previous campaigns such as Meat Free Monday have taken this more flexible approach to cutting back, in the hope that gradual change might trigger more long-term behaviour shifts.
Whether you are part of the vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian camps, it is now easier than ever to cut down. Last year meat sales fell by £184.6m and to meet changing consumer demand, many supermarkets and fast food chains now provide a diverse range of vegan and vegetarian options. The likes of Greggs, Burger King and now KFC have brought their vegan or ‘plant-based’ products to market with great success.
So, whatever your position on meat and dairy consumption, if you do decide to cut down you needn’t feel limited in choice. If that doesn’t sway you, did you know that some Life Insurance providers offer cheaper quotes for vegans and vegetarians? To find out more, get in touch with Watkin Davies on 02920 626 226.