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Going vegan is the ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth

Ben Graham, June 6, 2018 7:37AM News Corp Australia

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Eating plants can reduce our environmental impact media_cameraEating plants can reduce our environmental impact


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The single biggest way to reduce your impact* on planet Earth is to become a vegan, according to a big new study.

Vegans don’t eat meat, eggs or dairy products or use animal products such as leather.

Without animal products, world farmland use could be reduced by more than 75 per cent, or three quarters. That’s an area the size of Australia, the US, China and the European Union* combined, which could be freed up for other uses, such as plant farming and wildlife habitat.

The study, published in the journal Science in time for World Environment Day on June 5, measured the environmentally damaging greenhouse gas emissions from more than 38,000 farms.

It also shows that we don’t even need meat. The researchers found meat and dairy provide just 18 per cent of our required energy and 37 per cent of our protein.

Despite this, animal production uses 83 per cent of farmland in the world and produces 60 per cent of farming’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Chickpea farmer media_cameraChickpea farmer Barry Baker at Rupanyup, Victoria. Pea crops are better for the environment than meat production. Picture: David Geraghty

The study shows that getting our protein from plants such as peas is better for the environment than farming animals. Even the lowest-impact beef farm would be responsible for six times more greenhouse gases and 36 times more land than a pea farm producing the same amount of protein.

“A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification* (of ocean water), eutrophication (the build up of nutrients in water bodies which destroys wildlife), land use and water use,” Oxford University researcher Joseph Poore said.

“It (going vegan) is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” Mr Poore said.

Australians are one of the top meat-eating countries in the world. If going completely vegan sounds a bit extreme, you could try limiting your meat intake and choosing meat that is produced more sustainably*.

If you don’t want to be a vegan, here are some other ideas to cut down on meat

The Science study found that if we cut our meat consumption* in half and removed the worst 50 per cent of meat producers, and replaced them with vegetable crops, the benefits to the planet would be massive. Beef cattle, for example, raised on deforested* land produce 12 times more greenhouse gases and use 50 times more land than the same cattle would grazing on natural pasture*.

Chicken in garden media_cameraMeat produced more sustainably, such as free range, can be a less extreme way than veganism to reduce your environmental impact.


  • impact: effect
  • European Union: group of 28 countries in Europe
  • acidification: becoming acidic
  • sustainably: without damaging the environment
  • consumption: using up a resource, in this case eating
  • deforested: removing forest
  • pasture: grassland



  1. What is a vegan?
  2. Why was the study published on June 5?
  3. What source of protein is better for the environment than meat?
  4. The study found veganism is better for the environment than which two other things you can limit or do?
  5. What can you do to help the environment if you don’t want to be completely vegan?

1. Persuasive argument
After reading all the health and environmental benefits of being a vegan, create an A4 advertisement encouraging people to become vegan or to at least cut down on their meat intake. Try to persuade your readers with facts, statistics and maybe even a pie chart to convey some percentages in an easy-to-read manner. Ensure your ad is bright, colourful and comes with a logo about the benefits of becoming a vegan.

2. Extension
Brainstorm some ways that farmers could use to produce meat with less of an environmental impact.

Time: Allow 30 minutes
Curriculum links: English, Ethical Capability

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many wow words or ambitious pieces of vocabulary that you can find in yellow. Discuss the meanings of these words and see if you can use them orally in another sentence.

QUESTION: If you kept buying and eating animal products, how could you reduce the environmental impact of the choices you make?
Explain your answer with full sentences. We don’t publish comments that are only emojis.

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