Wait, what do cows have to do with climate change?
Farming accounts for a whopping 14.5% of greenhouse gases globally. That’s more than the emissions from the entire transport sector! But it’s the raising of animals for food specifically that’s the biggest problem. This is because:
- It’s inefficient: food has to be grown just to feed the animals… and a cow eats A LOT. It takes between five and twenty kilos of grain to get just one kilo of beef.
- The effect on land: land has to be cleared to rear animals, and even more if they’re free range! Even land in the Amazon has been cleared to make way for farm animals, and now one fifth of the world’s pastures have been damaged by overgrazing.
- Cow farts: well, actually it’s more burps. Cows belch more than your uncle after Christmas dinner. This gas is LOADED with methane, a super potent greenhouse gas - that’s 30 times stronger than CO2.
Therefore, eating less animal-based foods is an essential part of kit we need to tackle climate change. One report by scientists (not hippies) at the Oxford Martin School found that if most of us around the world went veggie, we could cut food-related emissions by nearly two-thirds.
Lucky then, that new research shows veganism in the UK has soared by 600% in the last couple of years. Roughly 7% of people say that they’re vegan - up from 1% in 2016. Plus, 14% are now vegetarian. But, how viable is change from a global perspective? Currently change has been driven by increased awareness - the internet means people are more aware of the threat that climate change poses, and know what they can do about it. With a report recently showing that Brits would give up meat rather than their car to combat climate change, we look at signs that the tide is turning to a plant powered future.
When China’s health ministry outlined plans to cut citizens’ meat consumption by 50%, they knew there was only one man to help them deliver the message. They enlisted the help of the actor, bodybuilder, ex-governor of California, and all out legend that is Arnold Schwarzenegger to produce adverts encouraging Chinese people to eat less meat in order to curb climate change. If the government’s guidelines are followed, it could reduce emissions from China’s livestock industry by 1bn tonnes by 2030.
When you think of takeaway service JustEat, you’re more likely to think of chicken tikka than chickpeas. But Just Eat - an international company - has named veganism as a ‘top consumer trend’ for 2018. Similarly in the US, GrubHub has announced that users chose vegan food 19% more in the first half of 2017 than in the first half of 2016.
Argentina is well-known for it’s heavy meat consumption. In fact, since 1990 it’s consumed the second-largest amount of meat of any country in the world. But President Mauricio Macri is about to change all that. Now, every Monday, the President and his 556 employees at the Casa Rosada (the equivalent of 10 Downing Street), will only be served plant powered vegan dishes. This bold move was made as part of a need to start conversations around healthy eating habits, as well as the environment.
Last year, the Portuguese parliament approved a new law that ensures there is a vegan option in all public canteens. Now the law has been implemented, Portuguese schools, universities, prisons and hospitals are all providing plant-based meals. This change was the result of a popular petition promoted by the Portuguese Vegetarian Society (Associação Vegetariana Portuguesa) in 2015.
The queen of pop recently announced she was going vegan again in the run-up to the festival, Coachella, and invited her 112 million followers on Instagram to join her in a 22 day vegan challenge. “We want to challenge you as we challenge ourselves to move towards a more plant-based lifestyle and acknowledge you for standing up for your health and the health of the planet,” Beyoncé and Jay-Z say on the 22 Days Challenge website.
With plant-based foods becoming increasingly mainstream and visible in pop culture, endorsed by musicians from Miley Cyrus to Will.i.am, and sport stars from Venus Williams to Lewis Hamilton, it looks like the shift to a more sustainable, plant based diet is unstoppable.