Reasons to go plant based this January, and beyond!

Just because we are five days into Veganuary, doesn't mean its too late to start your plant based journey. You don’t have to have started from the 1st of January, and you can go plant based gradually if it suits you better.

Reducing your animal product intake will significantly reduce your individual carbon emissions, save animal lives and improve your overall health. In your first month being plant based, you could save 33,000 gallons of water, 600lbs Co2 and 30 animals! These may be the pro-plant based points you hear most often, but that is because they are true.

There’s a long list of reasons for why going plant based is a great idea, but here are our top 3:

The Environment

There’s no doubt that animal products negatively impact the environment and are contributing to irreversible climate change.

Plantli use the term ‘Carbon Foodprint’ to identify the carbon footprint of a particular food. The main factors that contribute to a carbon foodprint are the farming, transport, water and land use that are required to produce that food.

Animal products have a significantly higher carbon foodprint than plant foods. For instance, beef produces 60kg of greenhouse gas emissions per kg, whilst tofu produces 1.6kg, and root vegetables produce 0.4kg (1). Shocking, we know. After hearing numbers like these, it’s no surprise that the 3 foods with the highest carbon footprints are animal based — beef, lamb, and cheese. This is largely due to huge amounts of methane produced by these ruminant animals.

What’s more, mass animal farming requires space to graze and grow animal feed, contributing to rapid deforestation. In fact, animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of Amazon destruction, and each second, 1–2 acres of rainforest are cleared (10). Deforestation damages ecosystems and destroys the habitats of endangered animals. It is thought that if everyone went vegan, the area of global land used for agriculture would be reduced by 75%.

The science and research done on the true impacts of animal agriculture is always growing, and in 2018, Oxford University reported that you can reduce your individual carbon footprint by up to 73% by going plant based (3). In fact, if you even go plant based for a month (like Veganuary), you’ll save 600lbs of Co2 emissions.

The Animals

It’s no secret that besides the fact that they are killed for the sole purpose of human consumption, the conditions farm animals live in and the treatment they are subjected to, is awful. Peta reports that chickens raised for meat are the most badly treated. Newly hatched chicks are sent to sheds where they are tightly packed with 30,000 or more other birds, live in their own waste and are fed growth encouraging feed and antibiotics. (4) Many birds die before slaughter due to heart failure, their large upper bodies unable to be supported by their legs. Chickens on factory farms commonly suffer from infectious diseases caused by pathogens such as salmonella and listeria (4).

You may have an image in your head of cows grazing in green fields, and of intensive beef farms only being found in America, but this is not the case. Thousands of cows live their short lives with no access to pasture, being fattened up and then slaughtered for UK supermarkets (5). The Guardian and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism identified a number of industrial scale beef farms like these operating across the UK, because unlike poultry and pig farms, industrial beef farms do not need government permission to operate (5).

Dairy cows are also treated extremely inhumanely, on the whole. According to Peta, they are treated like ‘milk producing machines’. Female cows are artificially inseminated shortly after their first birthday, and their calves are taken from them at just 1 day old. They are then milked for 10 months for human consumption. After this, they are artificially inseminated again (6), and the cycle continues.

In 2019, activist group Surge revealed secret footage from farms which showed the abuse of animals by staff on UK farms. The videos showed ‘widespread incidences of punching, kicking, excessive tail twisting, swearing/shouting, beating with sticks, separation of calves from mothers, force feeding of calves and removal of calves’ and showed dead cows being left to rot outside for days (7). Surge’s founder Ed Winters said that ‘dairy comes from violence, even if those actors of violence are legally condoned. The only way to end the violence is to live vegan’ (7).

In 2019, UK meat sales were down £185 million, beef sales having fallen 4% and pork 6.4%. As you refuse to pay for animal products, demand goes down, less meat is required and less animals are slaughtered (8). In the same period, plant based meat alternatives were up by 18% (8). So, if you thought that going plant based wouldn’t actually make a difference or save animal lives, think again!

Your Health

Contrary to popular belief, there is evidence to suggest that human bodies are not in fact programmed to ‘need’ animal products, or even able to digest them. Cows milk is amongst the most common allergies, as the human body actually fights it (6). Cows milk is suited to the nutritional needs of calves, not humans. Peta reported that a UK study followed a group of people who suffered from irregular heart beats, asthma, headaches, fatigue and digestive problems, and they showed improvements in their health after cutting out dairy (6). Not consuming dairy is also thought to offer benefits to the skin, and resolve/manage a number of issues.

Eating a varied plant based diet is likely to expose you to a wider range of nutrients, fibre and antioxidants as you will consume more nutrient dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and pulses. What’s more, a well balanced and thoughtful plant based diet appears to lower blood sugar levels, and improve kidney function (9).

In 2015, the WHO evaluated over 800 medical studies and concluded that consumption of processed meat is “carcinogenic to humans”(10). There is also overwhelming evidence of the link between meat and colorectal cancer, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer. Eating a vegan diet may reduce a persons risk of cancer by 15%, according to a 2017 review (11). Animal products are generally high in saturated fats and cholesterol, which both pose a threat to health. Following a plant based diet which is naturally lower in these will improve your overall health, but particularly your heart health and lower your risk of heart disease (9).

Public Health England updated their dietary advice in 2016, almost halving the recommended dairy intake percentage from 15% to 8%, and recommending that people eat less meat. The diary category has also been renamed ‘dairy and alternatives’, as they finally respond to the overwhelming scientific evidence regarding the negative impact dairy can have on health, and that important vitamins and minerals like calcium can be obtained elsewhere (12).

If you have decided to adopt a plant based diet, https://plantli.io can help with the transition. You will receive personalised meal recommendations and nutrition tracking, as well a carbon foodprint score, based on the foods you eat. Plantli is your personal plant based nutritionist, helping you make better choices for both you and the planet.

Sources

(1) https://ourworldindata.org/environmental-impacts-of-food

(2) Margulis, Sergio. “Causes of Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon”. World Bank Working Paper №22. 2003

(3) https://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2018-06-01-new-estimates-environmental-cost-food

(4)

(5) https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/29/revealed-industrial-scale-beef-farming-comes-to-the-uk

(6) https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/animals-used-food-factsheets/cows-milk-cruel-unhealthy-product/

(7) https://plantbasednews.org/news/dairy-investigation-reveals-animal-abuse-across-uk/

(8) https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/red-meat-sales-hit-as-800-000-people-go-vegetarian-kpz2k3xnz

(9)

(10)

(11)https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10408398.2016.1138447?journalCode=bfsn20

(12) https://viva.org.uk/health/why-animal-products-harm/meat-the-truth/uk-meat-consumption-going-down/

Plantli.io is a software platform helping you go plant based, with both nutrition and the planet in mind. 🌱 Meal recommendations and carbon foodprint tracking!