Veganism – A Way to Contribute to Sustainable Development Goals
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Veganism – A Way to Contribute to Sustainable Development Goals

A possible solution to mitigate climate change and live sustainably

By Anshul Saini

Veganism – A Way to Contribute to Sustainable Development Goals

There is no debate that veganism is ethically and mortally better not just for animals but for society at large too. Applications of veganism are no more limited to food and diet, but now answer many possible ways for organizations, individuals, and countries to meet their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 


In 2019, the Amazon forests caught fire due to farmers and loggers using fire as a way to clear land for soy crops or grazing land for cattle i.e. for converting the sensitive rain forest into soy farming hub so that the same can be used to raise livestock for meat, dairy, and eggs production. These fires in 2019 alone released a carbon bomb of massive 228 megatons which was the highest since 2010, along with releasing other greenhouse and poisonous gases including Carbon Monoxide. 


In 2021, the effects of climate change were witnessed by Europe, with all the countries from Turkey to Spain were engulfed with forest fires as a result of rising temperature and heatwaves. Again, resulting in an increase in carbon footprint in a single year. Similarly, many more countries worldwide are affected by similar direct and indirect effects of climate change leading to water and food crisis which in turn may aggravate as a civil and national crisis, all due to rising carbon emissions. 

So much carbon emission for the world’s love for meat, eggs, and dairy!


The hard truth remains, that carbon emissions are not decreasing fast enough to limit global warming despite global agreements in place including CoP21 etc. Since 1990, carbon emissions have witnessed an increase of over 60%. Further, the deforestation occurring due to intentional clearing of land for livestock and/or due to forest fires further reduces the available carbon sinks for the planet that ends up compounding the effects of climate change i.e. global warming, extreme weather, and a range of related issues that are going to get more complicated for nations to deal with. 


Veganism may come as a rescue to this dire situation for global citizens to address. Studies have concluded that cutting meat and dairy from diets could reduce individual carbon footprint by over 73% and if the world comes together to this movement, global farmland area could be reduced by 75% which is equivalent to the combined area of the US, EU, China, and Australia. The freed-up farmland accordingly could help safeguard and restore the earth’s biodiversity which in turn could help to achieve the global goals of mitigating climate change. On the other hand, the grains that are used to feed livestock (to convert into meat) can be used to feed the hungry across the world alleviating millions out of their sorrow and suffering. The above situation will help address multiple SDGs and will mean a win-win situation for several countries and communities across the horizon. 


Google searches on veganism are at an all-time high with the popularity score increasing from 33 in 2009 to 100 in 2019, and this trend is has surged especially amongst high-income group countries. The searches for “veganism” have doubled in America and tripled in Australia, France, and Spain, and quadrupled in Sweden over the past few years. The US had 9.7 Million classified as Vegans in 2019. 


In the UK, as in 2018, there were an estimated 600,000 vegans and of these, around 360,000 described themselves as ‘lifestyle vegans’ i.e. those who commit to only using or buying cosmetics and clothes free from animal products. 


This supports the fact that prominent fast-food chains such as Greggs, McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and many more have launched vegan food options in Europe. Around a quarter of all evening meals in the UK were vegan or vegetarian as in 2018 and the trend continues to follow an upward curve. 


Veganism has now fueled the growth of an industry purely into vegan alternatives to animal-derived products that’s already worth billions of dollars, including products such as non-dairy milk and cheese, imitation meat, and leather made from plant-based sources (such as pineapple leaves, cactus, apple peel, etc.). 


Celebrities too have a role to play in influencing and encouraging people to opt for veganism. There is a reasonable mention on social media about celebrities such as Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, and Ellen DeGeneres for not consuming animal products. ‘#vegan’ has more than 87 million posts listed on Instagram (as of Jan 2020). 


The movement which was initially associated with hippies venturing into animal farms to free captive and tortured animals has now extended towards a global cause to stand for that is in a true sense a revolution for sustainability.   


The world doesn’t need a reason to embrace the philosophy of veganism anymore. Almost no country is untouched by the issues of climate change that have resulted in the suffering and plight of millions across the world due to food insecurity, water scarcity, floods and famines, and other adverse effects on human civilization. 


Climate change is caused by the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that leads to a rise in temperature. While the world has spoken amply about emissions of these greenhouse gases through the burning of fossil fuels, a subject conveniently undermined by policymakers and communities has been animal agriculture that contributes up to 50% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. 


Around 83% of global farmland is consumed to address dairy, eggs, and meat production whereas it provides only 18% and 37% of calories and protein. The carbon emissions from animal agriculture (meat, eggs, and dairy-based food products) are more than all cars, trains, and airplanes combined. This only reiterates where the true focus of the world truly needs to focus to undertake real concrete measures towards sustainable goals. 


To summarize, animal agriculture is a major contributor to environmental degradation, human health, and animal suffering and leads to global issues such as ocean acidification, freshwater withdrawal, deforestation, and climate change. It is the single most cause that is responsible for up to 91% of the deforestation of Amazon forests. The future of human civilization as well as other species today depends upon our collective actions to safeguard the planet. 


While food choices are often termed as a matter of ‘personal choice’ that represents the region’s culture and more, modifications in food systems are an immediate call to action required by communities around the world. There is no planet B, everyone needs to act. A shift to a Vegan diet stays one of the best ways to practice and embrace the Sustainability Goals at individual and organizational goals.


About the Author


Anshul Saini is a digital media professional with over 10 years of experience in the Infrastructure, Food, and Real Estate sectors. He holds a Master of Science degree in Marketing from the University of Glamorgan, UK, (now the University of South Wales) and has also attended the ‘Stepping into Leadership’ program from the Indian School of Business, Mohali, India.  Anshul enjoys a strong interest in the subjects of Sustainability, Food, and Place Marketing.  He tweets at @anshulsainee


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