Cheesed off

Be a part-time vegan

If you’re looking to take a healthy bite out of your environmental impact, this is a big one. By choosing more meat-free and dairy-free meals each week for the next two months, you’ll really be doing something good for the planet - not to mention all those animals...

What’s more, cutting down on certain foods - like cheese and meat - could also help keep your heart ticking healthily.

And you’ll be in good company! Veganism has seen huge growth over the last few years, with a number of high-profile names, including celebrities, politicians and sportspeople making the switch1.

Why

Here are a few reasons to take action.

Click for more info or scroll to read them all.

Climate Change

Cows burp. A lot. And pigs eat. A lot.

As the human population starts to eat more and more meat and dairy, we’re putting increasing pressure on our land, water, and climate.

The food we eat has a big impact on the climate - making up a whopping 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with animal products responsible for well over half of those emissions.2 This is mostly a result of increasing deforestation (largely to make space for growing food to feed the livestock), and the methane gas emitted from belching cows.

But what about all the soya that vegetarians eat? Doesn’t that drive deforestation too? Well, yes, soybean plantations are a big driver of deforestation - but a vegetarian eats far fewer soybeans than a cow or a chicken does. In fact, 80% of the world’s soybean crop is fed to livestock.3

If you can stretch your memory back to classes about the food chain, you may remember that for each step in the food chain, energy is lost. In other words, getting your energy directly from the source - plants - is far more efficient than getting it via animals. Just as this chart shows.

So as you can see, cutting back on meat and dairy could have a really big impact on your carbon footprint. And in doing so, you’ll save money to allow you to buy higher welfare animal products when you do have a meaty treat, which are more likely to be grass fed and therefore have a lower footprint than their intensively farmed counterparts.

Our favourite quote from food writer Micheal Pollan sums it up nicely:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Health

It’s a myth! Vegans are certainly not destined to a life of frailty. If the growing movement of vegan athletes and runners bucking the sickly stereotype isn’t enough to convince you, check out these bodybuilders proving you don’t need to munch on meat to be strong!

If you want to make sure your nutrition is up to scratch, The Vegan Society is happy to help.

Even if you’re not aspiring to ultra-marathons or bodybuilding competitions, eating too much cheese, ice cream and red meat is bad for us – particularly our waistlines and arteries. Meat and dairy are the main source of saturated fats in western diets, and their growing popularity is partly responsible for the huge increase in cases of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and bowel cancer.

Deforestation

Producing food for a meat-eater requires four and a half times more land than producing food for a vegan, according to agricultural scientists.2 And we can't grow land.

The primary driver of tropical deforestation is to make space for agriculture.6 Aside from staggering greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation leads to a whole host of problems: it displaces local communities, causes social unrest and corruption, disturbs rainfall patterns, increases flood risks, contaminates rivers, and endangers native species.

Basically, it’s bad news.

70%

of agricultural land is used up by livestock, providing grazing land and feedcrop.5

Animal Welfare

From horse meat scandals to battery-farmed chickens, a common motivation for going vegan is poor animal welfare.

For a glimpse into the reality of how our food is treated, just listen to Jonathan Safran Foer. Or, if you really want a raw idea of what’s going on, watch Earthlings. Warning: not for the faint hearted. If you can stomach this, you can stomach anything (except meat).

Water

Whether it’s a hamburger or a bean stew, everything we eat requires water to get to our plates. Our consumption of animal products contributes to more than one-quarter of humanity’s water footprint. The water needed to produce feed is the major factor behind the water footprint of animal products. It shouldn’t be a surprise then, that the overuse of water has been linked to worsening droughts in the USA.

However, we can’t ignore that many vegan protein sources (such as the beans in that stew) only use marginally less water than meat, sometimes even more. As ever, life is complicated. Fortunately, we believe veganism’s other benefits still make it a sustainable choice.

Global Goals

In September 2017, an historic agreement was signed by UN member nations agreeing to work towards 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development by 2030, otherwise known as the SDGs.

Achieving these ambitious goals will require action from governments, businesses, NGOs, and individuals alike. We can - and must - all play our part.

By making the 'Cheesed off' pledge, you are contributing to the following SDG targets (this one hits a lot of them!):

3.4: By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being

6.4: By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity.

12.8: By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature

13.3: Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning

15.2: By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally

15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species

How

Going vegan for a few meals a week isn’t tricky. All it takes is a few starter recipes and you’ll be well on your way. Here are some tips for making the transition, and here’s a handy guide to eating a diet that’ll keep you - and the planet - in tip top condition.

The Vegan Society have a good range of recipes that will get you started. Give their moussaka a try and let us know how it goes? Veganuary have also curated a great selection of vegan recipes from around the world. Yotam Ottolenghi's amazing cookbooks are among our favourites when it comes to vegetarian and vegan recipes - particularly his new Simple collection. If you’re looking for the ultimate list of vegan cookbooks, look no further.

Eating out doesn't have to pose a challenge - check out all the restaurants offering vegan-friendly menus

To make the transition that bit easier, why not have your fresh veg delivered to your doorstep? Veg box schemes like Riverford, Abel & Cole or Farmdrop (and many more) provide irresistible hampers full of delicious vegetables, which you can easily tailor to meet your household needs.

Success Stories

1,270

Pledges
in total

27,299kg

CO2
pledged

Wow - I can't believe two months is up already! How time flies when you're having fun! ;)

it's a challenge to change, but not so difficult once you try!

Over the course of the challenge nearly every meal I cooked or ate at home was vegan. When I ate out, I ate vegan if available, but if not then vegetarian. I am continuing with this even now the challenge is over.

Hard with a family and wanting to be quick in the evenings. I started off well but probably more like once a week vegan for the latter stages

This was a great and fun task. I have tried tons of new food and loved it! Will definitely be keeping this up!

Managed at least 5 vegan meals a week and feeling healthier for it!

I don't drink any milk at all, have radically cut down on eggs (can't remember the last time I had one?) and butter and cheese. The only cheese I ate was the leftovers of an organic cheese that was going to go in the bin at the end of a party :)

I managed this completely and I've decided to stick with vegan breakfast but there's no way (at this stage) that I could go full vegan.

When eating out in some places with limited choice I caved in and eat non-vegan, but at home I was pretty much 100%.

I have gradually increasing my vegan meals with the help of some excellent vegan cookbooks!

- Stopped buying cow milk entirely and now only have oat milk in my tea and cereal. - Considered carefully whether or not I needed to add cheese to meals.

Some delicious vegan meals, great flavouring. Enjoyed it more than I thought! Recipes tend to have too high quantities but freezing and enjoying again is good.

We had lots of fun swapping snacks and baking to vegan ones. Kids really enjoyed it.

Didn't miss it! We specifically eat minimal beef now, and have seriously cut down on the dairy we eat as well.

Found it quite easy once I got in the habit of using milk alternatives. Thai, Indian and cheese-less mexican food made cooking vegan fun and tasty!

Doing Veganuary and intend to keep a couple of Vegan days each week and stop drinking cows milk in coffee

I've become a 'flexitarian' and am loving it. Purchased a vegan recipe book and I'm enjoying cooking without meat!

Vegan in the week :) Treat myself to fish at the weekends!

References

  1. 30 Vegan Celebrities 2020 - Famous People Who Follow a Vegan Diet
  2. Cut meat and dairy intake 'by a fifth' says report
  3. WWF Sustainable Food Production Soy
  4. These are the worst ready-made sandwiches for the climate
  5. Spedding, C.R.W., ‘Food for the ‘90s: The Impact of Organic Foods and Vegetarianism’, 1990 pp. 231-241
  6. NASA Earth Observatory
  7. The carbon and water data shown in the bar charts were prepared for our own footprint calculator by ERM, based on a combination of data from Defra (2006) Environmental Impacts of Food Production and Consumption; BDA - the Association of UK Dieticians Food Fact Sheet: Portion sizes; Defra Family Food 2017/18; and Audsley, E., Brander, M., Chatterton, J., Murphy-Bokern, D., Webster, C., and Williams, A. (2009) How low can we go? An assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from the UK food system and the scope to reduce them by 2050. WWF-UK.

Images

7. 9. & 11. Do The Green Thing