The vegetarian community has been saying this for a while: You can’t be a meat-eating environmentalist. Now, there’s science to back up that claim. Turns out the benefits of being vegetarian or vegan include creating significantly fewer greenhouse gases than meat-eaters.
Typical meat-eaters in the U.S. consume about four ounces of animal products or more per day. That’s enough to boost the individual greenhouse gas emissions of the meat-eater’s diet to twice as much as vegetarians. Compared to vegans, it’s 2.5 times, finds new research out of the U.K.
The research was published in the recent issue of the journal Climate Change. The researchers looked at data from 2,041 vegans, 15,751 vegetarians, 8,123 fish eaters, and 29,589 meat eaters in the U.K. Looking at the estimated greenhouse gas emissions from certain foods, the research team was then able to determine the impact on the environment based on the diet types (per a 2,000 calorie per day diet).
For the diet of the average man (women ranked slightly lower across the board) the greenhouse gas emissions based on food choices looked like this:
- Heavy meat eaters (4 ounces or more per day): 16 pounds of CO2e
- Low meat eaters (less than two ounces per day): 10.3 pounds
- Fish eaters: 8.7 pounds
- Vegetarians: 8.5 pounds
- Vegans: 6.5 pounds
While the benefits of being vegetarian are most often associated with personal health or the ethical benefit to the animals, the researchers noted significant benefits to the planet. “It is likely that reductions in meat consumption would lead to reductions in dietary GHG emissions,” the study authors wrote. “National governments that are considering an update of dietary recommendations in order to define a ‘healthy, sustainable diet’ must incorporate the recommendation to lower the consumption of animal-based products.”
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