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Editor | Kate Byng-Hall

The Move Away From Meat

Updated: Jul 31, 2019

How changing our diet could save the planet and protect our future, by Shaun Britton

Photo by Keagan Henman

The Australian philanthropist Phillip Wollen said in his speech at the debate ‘Animals Should Be Off The Menu’ that “Ours is the Swiss army knife of the future.” With our planet facing an ever more bleak ecological future, a future compounded by myriad interwoven issues, could the move away from animal foods be our best hope for confronting them?

Reasons and Resources: The Case For Plant-Based

Firstly, meat and dairy take a deeply alarming toll on our environment. The Institute for Trade and Agriculture and GRAIN co-produced a report on the impact of meat and dairy industries. They concluded that they were set to overtake fossil fuel industries as the leading world polluters. Equally, the practice of meat and dairy production is according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), responsible for 18% of GHG’s. Given that we need to cut our emissions significantly, by at least half in order to stay below the 2 degree tipping point described by the IPCC to avoid dramatic consequences, it is both timely and essential to question animal agriculture's footprint and indeed validity. 

Animal agriculture is also responsible for many other negative effects to the natural landscape. Another report from the FAO says that waste from livestock, including manure has serious implications for water quality, not to mention the hormones, antibiotics and vaccines that move through farms and reach drinking water sources. A recent study from the Senior Water Scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory warned that one of the main challenges about to face humankind is dramatic growing water shortages. It is troubling therefore to read that the the water footprint of beef is 6 times larger than for pulses, with beef responsible for over 15,000 litres of water consumption per kilogram.

A Necessary Nutrition

But what about nutrition - don't we need meat and dairy? Actually, no, not at all. Canada's recently overhauled, official government nutrition guide now not only incorporates alternatives to animal products but promotes choosing protein from plants more often, and consuming plenty of plant based foods. Dairy is virtually omitted.

It is more than possible to get all types and amounts of nutrients needed without animal products and be in great health. In fact, three top UK WWE wrestlers told how they rely on the diet for peak performance, and in 2015 weight lifter Patrick Baboumian broke his own world record with a ten-meter, 560kg yoke walk.

In a fascinating interview with Plant Based News, Dr Milton Mills, describes how our physical makeup is resemblant to that of a herbivore (it's worth noting also that many herbivores have canines) and hence it makes perfect sense to provide ourselves with what our bodies are set up for.

In order to meet the food needs of a planetary population set to grow to 9.7 billion by 2050, we need reliable, nutritious food sources that can be harvested without reckless damage to our environment, ourselves and that won't insatiably drain finite and precious resources.

What Next?

Plant based equivalents have gone from strength to strength in recent years, and so many delicious alternatives are available, providing all the nutrition needed and thankfully, without the dramatic impact caused by its animal based counterparts. Any earnest look into the animal agriculture industries reveals a truly macabre tale. In order for industries to stop creating such devastating products at the expense of our health, and for our world to become kinder to our fellow non-human animals, we only have to stop buying it. We may even save the planet, and protect it for us, and future generations in the process. 

As the animal sanctuary Edgar's Mission, states ”If we could lead happy and healthy lives without harming others, why wouldn't we?” | Tru.🌱

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(1) YouTube. (2012). Philip Wollen : Animals Should Be Off The Menu debate | Subtitles in 18 languages. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].

(2) (2019). GRAIN — Emissions impossible: How big meat and dairy are heating up the planet. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].

(3) FAO, 2006. Livestock’s Long Shadow—Environmental Issues andOptions. Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rome, Italy

(4) IPCC, 2007. Summary for Policymakers. In: Metz, B., Davidson, O.R., Bosch, P.R., Dave, R., Meyer, L.A. (Eds.), Climate Change 2007: Mitigation. Contribution of Working Group III to the qFourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

(5) Mateo-Sagasta, J., Marjani Zadeh, S. and Turral, H. . Water pollution from agriculture: a global review. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].

(6) PEIRIS, S. (2018). Unprecedented study reveals major shifts and threats to global freshwater supplies - Research - University of Saskatchewan. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].

(7) Water footprint of crop and animal products: a comparison. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].

(8) (2019). Canada's Food Guide. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].

(9) YouTube. (2019). WWE UK Wrestlers Explain Why They Turned Vegan | Good Morning Britain. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].

(10) English, N. (2019). The 5 Strongest Vegans On Earth - BarBend. [online] BarBend. Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].

(11) (2018). Are Humans Omnivores Or Herbivores? Dr. Milton Mills Explains The Human Diet. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].

(12) (2015). World population projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 | UN DESA | United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].

(13) Edgar's Mission Farm Sanctuary. About Edgar’s Mission. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Mar. 2019].




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