The hard facts: How going vegan impacts the environment and our health

Read Time:   |  13th August 2018

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The Vegan Society’s Dominika Piasecka arms you with key stats to help spread the word with friends, family and colleagues. 

vegan facts

We all know that, as well as having a huge positive impact on the environment and our health, veganism is the kindest lifestyle choice for the animals. But living in the age of information means there’s an abundance of often conflicting data out there, making it easy to get confused. As vegans, we are all ambassadors for our movement and it’s crucial that we represent it in the best way we can.

We aim to help you do this when having conversations with non-vegans. Being a happy, healthy vegan is a great form of activism in itself but it helps to be informed about the key issues, too.

Animal welfare

There are at least two rough estimates for the number of farmed animals killed every year by humans: 56 billion and 150 billion. Both are striking and neither includes the number of marine animals killed, which is so great that it’s measured in tonnes. But the conclusion is that we just do not know the harm we cause.

While this is a non-statistic really, it is the most heart-breaking one: there is no accurate estimation of how many animals die at our hands. We as a society do not value animal lives enough to even note their passing; a life is worth less than a mark on a paper.

vegan facts

The exploitation of female cows for their reproductive capacities by the dairy industry is one of the cruellest forms of injustice we perpetrate on animals. Drinking cow’s milk means contributing to the killing of a child, the breaking of a new mother’s heart and abuse of the miracle of bearing children.

With today’s intensive farming systems constantly seeking out ways to minimise cost and maximise profit, cows have been cross bred to the point where they produce much more milk than they naturally would, leading to health consequences such as difficult labours.

Organic is not always cruelty-free

People often think that buying organic or free-range eggs means they’re not contributing to animal suffering. As vegans we can point out that, in fact, every single egg consumed supports the cruel and exploitative egg industry. The practice of killing day-old male chicks occurs in all egg farming systems, including organic and free-range.

vegan facts

While hens’ welfare is compromised as they’re specifically bred to produce two or three times as many eggs as they naturally would. It depletes them from calcium, meaning bone fractures are sadly very common.

The environment 

While veganism is a movement exclusively about non-human animals, it can help people, too. Vegans are often accused of not caring about people (as if we couldn’t care about both!) but, in fact, our lifestyle can help combat world hunger.

vegan facts

People in developing countries are starving partially because of our greed for meat, dairy and eggs. If everyone ate the crops directly, rather that feeding them to animals and then eating them, we could feed nearly half the world’s population! Animal agriculture is inherently wasteful and unsustainable. For every 100 calories fed to animals, we receive back only 12 calories by consuming their flesh and milk.

Greenhouse gas

The dairy industry, far from its perception as an innocent by-product, is every bit as environmentally destructive as meat. Dairy alone accounts for about 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, over half of which is methane — a highly potent greenhouse gas emitted by cows.

vegan facts

We need to be far bolder than “eating less or ‘better’ meat” if we are to protect our precious planet.

Healthy eating

A vegan world would not only be a kinder place for everyone but hugely beneficial to our health, too. Oxford University experts found that billions of dollars could be saved if no one ate animals.

There’s a disconnect between what we’re told we should be eating and the food we’re producing. Animal farming is sadly being prioritised, whereas governments should really provide support for growers who produce food for humans.

vegan facts

Everyone has heard about the World Health Organisation report in November 2015 that classified processed meat as a carcinogen on a par with tobacco. The news caused many people to make changes to their diets, leading to some becoming vegetarian or vegan. Let’s not let anyone forget about it!

Ultimately, every action we take is with a view to making ourselves happy – it is human nature to make choices that personally benefit us. Thus, naturally, we all want to be healthy so we can feel good, making the health argument for going vegan an important one. If someone doesn’t care about the animals or the planet, they may at least care about themselves, so make sure you make the most out of it by using this stat.

Fact file

  • Milk production per cow has doubled over the last 40 years, with cows typically worn out after just three lactations.
  • 40 million day-old male chicks are killed in the UK by either being gassed or thrown into a macerator**.
  • Feeding crops to people rather than farmed animals could feed 3 billion more people.
  • Dairy alone accounts for about 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • For every 100 calories we feed to animals, we receive back only 12 calories from their meat or milk.
  • Eating just 50g processed meat per day (2 rashers of bacon) increases the risk of bowel cancer by 18%*.
  • Processed meat has been classified as a carcinogen on a par with tobacco. 
  • If the world went vegan it could save 8 million human lives by 2050 and up to $1,000bn per year on healthcare*.

About the author 

Dominika PiaseckaDominika Piasecka is Media and PR Officer at The Vegan Society, She is dedicated to bringing information about veganism to new audiences and inspiring people to change their lifestyle to benefit animals, the planet and their health.


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