According to statements by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), vegan and vegetarian lifestyles contribute significantly to combating hunger and poverty in the world and mitigating the worst effects of climate change. Not least for these reasons, many environmental and animal welfare organisations are committed to plant-based nutrition and are directing their actions against the meat industry.
Global meat consumption and the meat production industry have a proven negative impact on our climate and are responsible for the majority of CO2 emissions worldwide. However, the Australian initiative Vegeplan is showing how much the production of animal foods actually affects our environment and what giving up meat can achieve.
The initiative’s homepage provides a wealth of information on the current situation facing our planet. If one looks at the greenhouse gases emitted by animal agriculture globally, it quickly becomes clear why veganism and vegetarianism could make a decisive contribution to combating climate change. According to VegePlan, the emissions produced by animal agriculture account for 18% of the greenhouse gases emitted worldwide. Animal agriculture also releases ammonia and methane, the latter with a global warming potential 23 times higher than carbon dioxide (CO2). 65% of all nitrous oxide emissions produced by humans are also attributable to animal agriculture. Nitrous oxide has a global warming potential as high as 296 times that of CO2.
However, it is not only emissions, which continue to rise as a result of mass livestock farming, that are harmful to the environment. According to VegePlan, cattle pasture occupies 26% of the entire land area of our planet and is thus the main driving factor behind global deforestation. If one were to use this enormous area exclusively for the cultivation of plant products, it would be possible to find an answer to world hunger. A farmer who owns one hectare of land can feed between 5 and 10 people per year by producing animal products such as eggs, milk and meat. In contrast, up to 30 people could be fed for a whole year if the same area were used for growing vegetables, fruit, cereals and vegetable fats.
In view of the growing population, sustainable consumption and production are crucial: by 2050, a population increase of 41% to 9.5 billion people is expected.
The Vegeplan initiative is trying to encourage 1,000,000 people to give up meat consumption or at least reduce it. Each participant can see how his or her own meat consumption affects his or her environment. As motivation, he can, among other things, see the amount of water saved by his decision and how many trees he has saved. To date, Vegeplan has attracted 33,603 people to this initiative.