‘Can becoming vegan, or even vegetarian help with global warming?’ This is a question that many scholars, nutritionists, and policy makers are beginning to ask as global climate change becomes an increasing concern.

Sustainable Development

The United Nations (UN) recently released a Sustainable Development report that urges policy makers on the state level to move towards the reduction of the livestock sector within the agricultural sector. The report found that the livestock sector contributes to 70 percent of agricultural land.  The study also found that feed production for livestock contributes to climate change by between 50 percent to 85 percent. In response the UN has recommended that countries begin to adopt newly established sustainable development goals.

Policy

Sustainable development goals urge national policymakers to increase the availability of protein substitutes and reduce meat and dairy consumption.  The report presents a model that reveals that vegetarian or vegan diets, those rich in plant products, reduces total global climate compared to meat-based diets.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the Scientific Report of 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, last year, as part of a five year installment of dietary guidelines for the country. The report holds policy makers in the agricultural sector responsible for meeting and abiding by these guidelines.

The report demonstrates a heavier emphasis on the role that meat consumption plays on the condition of the environment, saying that the “consumption of more plant-based foods as part of a lower meat-based or vegetarian-style dietary pattern was associated with estimated lower environmental impact compared to higher meat or non-plant-based dietary.”

Within the next five years, US citizens and consumers should expect to see a decreased availability of animal-based products, and an increase in vegetables, cereals and protein substitutes like beans, seaweed, and tofu (among others), both on our farms and in our grocery stores.

Vegan or Vegetarian?

Powerful political and commercial entities, such as Peta (the animal rights organization), have begun to promote the adoption of vegan and vegetarian diets in the name of combating climate change as well. This choice comes under much debate and consumers move towards diets that significantly reduce the consumption of meat and dairy products.

While many have chosen to adopt vegetarian lifestyles as a means to reduce environmental impact, many still are seeking a more extreme dietary solution via veganism, which excludes all animal products and byproducts, in the hopes that it will significantly reduce consumer demand, and therefore reduce producer supply of products from livestock. The rapid rise to popularity of this movement however, leads us to ask the question: ‘is this just a fad or a sustainable trend’?