High meat consumption damages the environment, especially when compared to veganism, study says

23 August 2023

A new study involving a representative sample of more than 55,000 people has revealed that the more a diet consists of meat, the more damaging it is to the environment, Food Navigator reports. Vegans have the least impact on the environment, followed by vegetarians, but people who eat a lot of meat have the most environmentally damaging diets.

The study, published in Nature Food, was very comprehensive. It covered not only greenhouse gas emissions, but also land and water use, the impact on biodiversity and eutrophication (when an excess of nutrients in water leads to excessive algal growth). As far as greenhouse gas emissions are concerned, the study looked at carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

Meat has an adverse impact on the environment, both directly, with methane emissions from livestock, and indirectly, by contributing to the inefficiency of the supply chain as carbon-absorbing forests are cleared to make way for crops to feed animals rather than people.

The study found that, for each category of diets assessed, vegans had the lowest impact on the environment, while heavy meat eaters had the highest.

The data clearly show that vegan diets are more environmentally friendly than vegetarian diets, which are better than fish-based diets, which are themselves preferable to meat-based diets.

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