Putting aside the moral debate about whether or not there really is such a thing as "humane" meat (or eggs or dairy products), there are other issues equally as confounding at the forefront of the discussion about whether or not to eat meat, namely the impact on the environment.
New research out of Loma Linda University claims to prove that vegan and vegetarian diets have at least a 30 percent lower environmental footprint than meat-eaters, and is urging a "drastic" decrease in meat consumption.
According to the researchers, the team was able to clearly identify the benefits of a meatless diet on the environment from analyzing data collected from 96,000 seventh day Adventists, who are vegetarian or vegan for religious purposes.
The researchers found that vegans had greenhouse gas emissions 41.7 percent lower than meat-eaters and lacto-ovo vegetarians (eats both eggs and milk) were 27.8 percent lower. Other groups including pesco-vegetarians and infrequent meat-eaters scored the lowest at 23. 8 percent and just under 20 percent respectively, bringing the average to 30 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions on a diet of significantly decreased meat intake.
The study also looked at health benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets noticing consistently that the vegan group had the lowest risk for chronic diseases while the meat-eaters had the highest risk.
Dr. Joan Sabate, Loma Linda's Congress chair and professor in the Department of Nutrition, noted that plant foods are eleven times more efficient than animal foods, reports FoodNavigator.com. "The conversion of plant-based to animal foods is intrinsically inefficient… Meat production is generating low outputs of dietary energy and nutrients." Sabate noted that the vegetarian diets require less water, land use and energy as well as decrease emissions in largely unnecessary and unhealthy eating patterns: "The nutritional paradigm has changed. Meat and dairy used to be considered essential in the diet in large proportions, but now we know that plant-based diets are healthier and more sustainable."
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