Press release

Beef ten times the damage

22 July 2014

Further evidence of the damage beef production is doing to the environment was revealed yesterday. 

The new study (as reported by the BBC, The Guardian and others) suggests that the production of beef is around 10 times more damaging to the environment than any other form of livestock. The US study examined sources of protein - beef cattle need 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water than pork, poultry, eggs or dairy.

Jen Elford, the Vegetarian Society’s Head of Research and Information Services, commented, “Recent large studies, on both sides of the Atlantic, have confirmed the damage caused by meat based diets and the beneficial impact of going vegetarian. This new US study adds to recent evidence from Oxford University which found that carbon can be cut by up to 2 ½ times by switching to a vegetarian diet. This sends a strong message to anyone with environmental concerns that vegetarianism is good for the planet. For those wishing to reduce their meat intake and take a look at how the food on our plates can make a real difference to individuals, the planet and animals visit our Every Meal Counts website to discover more.”  

The Vegetarian Society, 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. Take a look at how your meals count by visiting to watch the films and take the online test.

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  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-Siegl,  Helen 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 environmental 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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