What would happen if the world went vegan? Scientists want you to know.
In a ground breaking study, the National Academy of Sciences published their estimate for both the health and climate change impacts that would occur if the world switched to eating a plant-based diet. NBC News reports that researches predict that eating less meat and more vegetables would “prevent several million deaths per year by 2050, cut planet-warming emissions substantially, and save billions of dollars annually in healthcare costs and climate damage.”
At Oxford University, researchers studied the effects of four different diets, including vegetarianism, veganism, a global guidelines diet includes limited red meat and minimum requirements for fruits and veg, and staying the course as we eat right now. The global guidelines showed a promising 5.1 million human lives saved, but paled in comparison to the 8.1 million veganism would impact. Add the more than 56 billion animals (forgotten in the study) that face death yearly for flesh, dairy, and eggs, and the impact is almost unimaginable.
Lives aren’t the only thing affected by a vegan diet, of course. Researchers found that it would cut food related emissions by 70 percent (the dietary recommendations option only hit 29), and could save up to “$1 trillion per year on healthcare, unpaid care and lost working days, while the economic benefit of reduced greenhouse gas emissions could be as much as $570 billion.” It’s a lot of big numbers, that all point to the strong and necessary impact of going vegan.
Still, lead author Marco Springmann told NBC “We do not expect everybody to become vegan. But climate change impacts of the food system will be hard to tackle and likely require more than just technological changes. Adopting healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets can be a large step in the right direction.” I believe society should be called to change, and that this information should be a very loud message, not a whisper.
While I’m impressed to see the results, and a major news media outlet talking about veganism, I still believe that ethical veganism and ending the exploitation of animals is the most important argument for making the change today. In leaving out our impact on non-human animals, the discussion remains about diet only, and not a total vegan lifestyle. We still stand to gain all the health and environmental benefits if we take a moral abolitionist approach, with the added benefit of no longer commodifying sentient beings.