Veg out

Make meat a treat

Nothing beats a succulent steak (except perhaps a bacon butty after a night in a tent). But you can have too much of a good thing - and we humans could do with taming our increasingly carnivorous ways.

Make meat a treat for a couple of months and you’ll improve your health, wallet and culinary expertise, not to mention your carbon footprint.

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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.1 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.2

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.”

Animal Welfare

From horsemeat scandals to battery-farmed chickens, a common motivation for vegetarianism is to help reduce poor animal welfare. Just listen to Jonathan Safran Foer for a glimpse into the reality of where our food comes from, 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).

Deforestation

The primary cause of tropical deforestation is agriculture.4 Aside from staggering greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation leads to a whole host of wider 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.4

Health

Eating too much red meat is bad for us – particularly our waistlines and arteries. Meat and dairy are the main source of saturated fats in our western diets, and their growing popularity is partly responsible for the huge increase in cases of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and bowel cancer.5

A study carried out by the Harvard School of Public Health found that regularly eating a small amount of processed red meat leads to a 20% increase in mortality rate.6 In other words, eating bacon, salami and sausages every day will knock (on average) two years off your life.

Water

Not only does raising cattle take up space, it requires an enormous amount of water. One third of the world’s freshwater supply to be exact, according to Cowspiracy. One hamburger alone uses 660 gallons of water, which is the equivalent of showering for two months!1

Global Goals

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 'Veg out' pledge, you are contributing in your own small way to the following SDG targets:

2.4: By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality

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

You needn't become a die-hard vegetarian to reap the benefits of this Do Action (although don’t let us stop you!). In fact, just going meat-free for a few days isn't too tough and (depending on your current meat-o-meter) could really shift the dial on your impact. (Just check out the Meat-Free Mondays campaign if you don’t believe us!)

And of course, you can use the money you'll have saved to buy some deliciously wholesome free-range or organic meat when it's time to treat yourself.

Here are some inspiring stories, handy recipe books and other resources to get you going:

Want to take your veg-pledge to the next level? Start growing your own! There’s little more satisfying than a home-grown crop of beans, beetroot or (if you’re really brave) broccoli. We love Real Seed’s collection of vintage seeds - get yourself some 10-foot peas or purple carrots!

Success Stories

3,310

Pledges
in total

166,714kg

CO2
pledged

I really enjoyed this pledge. I decided to aim for one veggie/vegan meal a day which I feel is so achievable. It's become virtually second nature.

We now order a local veg box, it’s been a challenge thinking of things to cook but actually I’ve found that most of my usual dishes can be adapted.

I've been trying to go meat free at least 3 days a week, and managed to do this without too much of a problem. I'll definitely continue as it's had a positive effect on my health and pocket.

This challenge made me far more aware of how much meat I was consuming, and I took active steps to reduce this. Even my husband, Mr "no meat, no meal" enjoyed the veggie creations I served up. Whilst I won't be going completely vegetarian, we have reassessed our relationship with meat and will decrease our weekly intake.

We reduced our meat consumption so that the whole family was only eating meat at the weekends (apart from one or two slips). When we did eat meat, we made sure it was organic or home grown. Whoop!

References

  1. Cut meat and dairy intake 'by a fifth' says report
  2. WWF Sustainable Food Production Soy
  3. These are the worst ready-made sandwiches for the climate
  4. NASA Earth Observatory
  5. Technical and Scientific Resource to Meatless Monday - Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
  6. BBC News How safe is eating meat?
  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.

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