Search icon


01st Nov 2023

Being a vegan can actually be awful for the environment

Nina McLaughlin

Being a vegan can actually be awful for the environment

‘It’s essential to be mindful about everything we consume’

Veganism has been hailed by many as a key way forward for saving the planet, but it turns out that it isn’t all that it seems to be, as it can actually be awful for the environment.

Although the detrimental environmental impacts of meat have been widely documented, it turns out that a vegan diet doesn’t make a positive difference either. 

However, it really depends on what foods make up the diet.

Joseph Poore, a researcher on the environmental impacts of food at the University of Oxford, spoke to BBC about the myth of environmentally friendly veganism.

“Nothing really compares to beef, lamb, pork, and dairy – these products are in a league of their own in the level of damage they typically do to the environment, on almost every environmental issue we track,” he said. 

“But it’s essential to be mindful about everything we consume: air-transported fruit and veg can create more greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram than poultry meat, for example.”

Some of the biggest offenders for emissions include asparagus, avocados, mushrooms as well as nuts such as almonds and cashews.

Take the case of 2 vegans from an Italian study – the pair were found to have an environmental impact that was massive when compared to many meat eaters. However, the couple ate a huge amount of fruit, in particular watermelons and cantaloupes, which have huge carbon footprints as a result of the water and land use, as well as their transport to the UK.

Overall, though, the study still maintained that out of all 153 vegans, vegetarians and omnivores, the meat eaters’ environmental impacts were still worse than those who had a vegan diet.

But it still goes to show that even though at face value a vegan diet may seem like it is the friendlier option for the planet, the components of your diet are what makes the biggest difference in your impact.

Related links:

Vegans are better in bed than meat-eaters, according to science

Vegan daughter demands parents don’t eat meat in their own home

Little boy heartbroken after kids snub his birthday party because his mum made vegan cake