We need to work at pace collectively and individually to protect the environment from the constant threat of global warming devastation.
While the United Nations’ COP26 came and went in the blink of an eye, thoughts have been lingering about the lack of scrutiny on animal agriculture and its contribution to climate change.
Agriculture generates between 30 to 40 per cent of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and creates other problems such as deforestation (mostly outside of the UK), poor soil health (from animal waste which can contain harmful microbes) and high-water usage.
The industry is the single largest contributor of carbon, methane and nitrous oxide, with animal agriculture being the largest emissions contributor within agriculture.
But what can humankind do to help mitigate disaster? And how can we, as individuals, help reduce negative impact and lower CO2 emissions? The simple action of giving up meat and dairy will lower your carbon footprint.
Now, for the dedicated steak-loving carnivores among you, the thought of going vegan may not whet your appetite but absorbing the fact that one normal-sized steak uses 5,000 litres of water will undoubtedly suppress it a little.
However, you could select more sustainable food options for just a month without harming the planet. Enter Veganuary – try it and you may be pleasantly surprised.
This annual event, launched in the UK by a team of environmentalists in 2014, challenges people to go vegan for a month.
Last year more than 500,000 people tried a vegan diet and 825 new vegan products and menu options were launched. Out of those who took part, 21 per cent said they took part for climate change and environmental reasons while 46 per cent undertook the challenge to help protect animals.
According to a global study published in the Science journal, meat and dairy provide just 37 per cent of protein despite using 83 per cent of farmland and producing 60 per cent of agriculture’s GHGs.
There are vegans within the Acre team and we always welcome a discussion about their experiences and reasons for boycotting all animal products.
Harco Leertouwer is the Managing Director Europe for Acre’s Amsterdam office and he, along with his wife and two children, are vegan.
“I decided to become vegan seven years ago for a combination of ethical, health and animal welfare reasons. Our daughters were born prematurely which was life-threatening for them and their mother and I realised how valuable, yet precious life is, and I wanted to do all I could to protect our planet.
“Plant-based food is so much richer in nutrients, lower in saturated fats and the more varied sources of proteins such as seitan, tofu and tempeh, lentils, beans and peas deliver more valuable nutrition than eating meat.
“Becoming vegan is the easiest way to support the fight against the climate crisis and to have a healthy diet while protecting animal welfare. It is completely normal for my children to be vegan – they don’t understand that people consume meat, fish and dairy.
“We do not need a small minority to do everything perfectly, we need fundamental system change as the world is on fire. For this, we need the majority of people to take small steps and these steps will then drive change. It is already happening, and it cannot be stopped.”
Tanith Allen, Director, Infrastructure & Manufacturing, Sustainable Business for Acre’s London office, said:“Having been raised vegetarian, you’d think the move to veganism wouldn’t have felt like such a stretch to me, but it took almost 30 years to make the leap. What ended up helping me to make the move was the increasing variety of options on the market as well as a huge surge in information about the environmental impacts of the meat and dairy industry. It was an overnight turn and I immediately felt energised by the community that was supporting my new lifestyle and physically how much healthier I felt.
“Veganism isn’t about restricting foods but opening yourself up to more variety and sharing that passion with others. I do feel like I have a responsibility to share ideas and get excited with the vegan-curious around me.
“Health can bring many people towards a vegan diet and the environmental footprint often strengthens interest and commitment to the lifestyle, but compassion to the life experience of the animals we share our earth with is what keeps me vegan seven years on, it’s hard to watch footage from a slaughterhouse and not feel compelled to entirely remove yourself from the demand that drives that industry.”
Rebecca Wilson, Acre’s Operations Manager in London, said: “My journey to veganism has been anything but linear, and I am still learning each day. I have been vegan for one year now and was an on-off vegetarian for seven years prior.
“My main reasons for choosing to go vegetarian initially, was a challenge to myself as, at the time I was a big meat-eater and I wanted to see if I could go cold turkey (excuse the pun), this then evolved over the years, looking into the way animals are treated in the farming industry from the beginning of their often short lives, to the end and the impact that has on the environment. I finally made the vegan plunge after a very cheese-heavy Christmas in 2020.
“I moved to Brighton last summer which really opened up a whole new dining out experience with its abundance of vegan restaurants and general acceptance of the plant-based lifestyle which is refreshing. My food choices have less impact on the planet, it has helped me explore new food groups, it's led to a healthier outlook on nutrition and it has pushed my interest in sustainable living even further, not to mention deepening my respect for animals.”