Climate Summit 2014

Why food choice matters?

22 September 2014


The UN Climate Summit takes place this week in New York where world leaders will debate one of the biggest challenges ever to face the planet.There is a lot on the agenda. While for world leaders global energy use and fossil fuels might be a big issue when it comes to climate change, as individuals, one of the best things to consider is our food.

Lynne Elliot, Chief Executive the Vegetarian Society said, “Of all the food we eat meat has the biggest impact on global warming. Food is a personal choice and in choosing to eat more plant based meals we empower ourselves and help reduce our own carbon footprint. We know the actions of world leaders can be slow but we can take a positive action with every veggie meal we eat. Visit our climate summit pages to find out why your food choice matters.

Recent research published in 2014, indicated that reducing meat intake is an important step for anyone with environmental concerns. Animals used for food produce dangerous and damaging levels of greenhouse gases and forests are cut down and the land used to grow animal feed. The feed is exported around the world for intensive pig, poultry and beef production.

The Vegetarian Society, a charity founded in 1847, inspires and supports people to be vegetarian. Visit for recipes and ideas about reducing your meat intake and download our free recipe app for inspiration.


Notes to editors

  • For more information please contact Su on 0161 925 2012 /  
  •  There are many environmental benefits in reducing your meat intake. Growing grains and pulses to feed to animals is much less efficient than eating them ourselves. The livestock industry uses huge amounts of land, water and fossil fuels, while producing greenhouse gas emissions and all sorts of other pollution.


Recent environment studies

The Soret Study: North American Meat Diet 2.5 Times more GHGs

Climate change mitigation and health effects of varied dietary patterns in real-life settings throughout North America  Samuel Soret, Alfredo Mejia, Michael Batech, Karen Jaceldo-SieglHelen Harwatt, and  Joan Sabaté  (July 2014)


The scale of the study is significant: it’s a large study of 73,000 people over a third were vegetarians.  (26,000 vegetarians).

The research plotted health and environmental benefits of plant based diets. What it showed was a significantly lower mortality (16%-19%) and a beneficial impact on personal carbon footprint (a third lower emissions).

The vegetarian diet has a smaller impact on the environment at every stage of food production from farm to fork. The emissions related to the production and sale of meat are higher: feed, fertilisers, refrigeration all have a carbon cost, and that’s on top of the animals’ emissions.

Interestingly this US study compares the relatively health conscious segment of the population - the Seventh Day Adventists, many of whom are vegetarian. However an average American consumes two and a half times more meat and so, as the authors point out, potential benefits to the general public and to the urgent battle against climate change could be even greater than those observed in the study. 

 The EPIC Oxford Research

Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK Peter Scarborough  , Paul N. Appleby , Anja Mizdrak, Adam D. M. Briggs, Ruth C. Travis, Kathryn E. Bradbury and Timothy J. Key (June 2014)

Oxford University study finds greenhouse gases from eating meat twice as high as vegan diet

Using data from the Oxford University on-going cohort study of over 55,000 UK citizens the researchers studied the relative impacts on greenhouse house gases, the major cause of our planet’s changing climate.  Data from 15,000 vegetarians and 2,000 vegans was analysed as part of the collaboration between researchers funded by the British Heart Foundation, the Oxford Martin School and Cancer Research UK. The study found that meat diets have approximately twice the greenhouse gas emissions of vegan diets. 

In conclusion the authors said a government update on dietary recommendation for sustainable diets must include lower consumption of animal products.





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The Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom Limited, Parkdale, Dunham Road, Altrincham WA14 4QG
Registered Charity No. 259358, Registered Company No. 959115 (England and Wales)

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