On the 1st of November, vegans around the world unite to celebrate World Vegan Day. It is a unique opportunity to share the benefits that this way of living and eating has. Not only is it a choice for animal welfare; it is also a choice for our health and the conservation of the environment.
Livestock accounted for 7.1 gigatons of greenhouse gases in 2010 – according to the most up-to-date data offered by FAO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. This figure represents 14.5% of global man-made greenhouse gases, and exceeds the annual emissions of the entire transport sector.
But it is not only about greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock is the direct cause of 80% of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and an important cause of water shortages. This is due to the amount of land used worldwide in an intensive way to monocultures of feed for livestock – instead of a variety of cereals, pulses and vegetables for people.
We need to shift globally to a ”flexitarian” diet if global warming is to be maintained below 2 ℃, let alone below 1.5 ℃. It is one of the shocking conclusions from the research study Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits, published this year in the science journal Nature.
With a flexitarian diet, the average citizen would eat 90% less pork, 75% less beef and half the number of eggs. At the same time, they would consume three times the current amount of beans and vegetables and four times that of nuts and seeds. The study states that this individual change, accessible for most people anywhere in the world, would reduce livestock emissions by half.
“Our current way of producing and consuming food is coming to an end,” says Jouko Riihimäki, Commercial Director of Jalofoods, a company specialising in vegan products. “Research shows that the livestock-based food plate burdens the environment much more than plant-based”.
Jalofoods’ flagship article is tofu: one of the vegetal protein-rich products that could become an ally in the effort to curb current meat consumption. The Finnish company (as with most vegan activists) tries to show citizens that replacing meat products can be easy, inexpensive and enjoyable.
“Our carbon footprint is particularly small compared to other protein-rich products”, Jouko explains. “This is the result of a lot of work and a constant focus on ecology and ethics”.
Jalotofu is produced with EKOenergy certified electricity, which makes their work still more aligned with the protection of the environment. “Using green energy, as shifting to a more vegetarian diet, is going to become a mainstream trend. Relying on a green energy certification like EKOenergy is a simple way to start a greener future”.
Diet change has started to be discussed in the media in recent months and weeks, largely because of its mention in the IPCC Special report on the impacts of global warming. The report states the important role which the intensive agriculture and livestock industry should play in slowing down global warming, and underlines the need to reduce meat consumption within the mitigation scenarios.
Environmental organizations have long been aware of the link between meat and dairy and global warming. Greenpeace proposes a global reduction of 50% in the production and consumption of animal products by 2050. On its side, ProVeg International is more ambitious and demands the same reduction by 2040.
Only through a comprehensive approach and a common effort can we fight the damage to nature that we ourselves have been causing for decades. A good starting point is from your own kitchen!
Written by Teresa López
Posted on 1 November 2018