High School High School Society and the World

Veganism: What’s the Beef?

Why do people go vegan?

We’ve all heard of ‘new’ fad diets to help you lose weight– like Paleo, Ketogenic, or Low Fat. Many may associate adopting a vegan diet as a method to lose weight. However, though some solely adopt this eating style as a way to shed the pounds, the vast majority understand the impact that animal agriculture has on the planet and the sentient creatures themselves.


Veganism, as officially defined by the Vegan Society in 1988, is:

[…] a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals. (1)

The earliest notions of specific Veganism rose in 1806 with Dr William Lambe and Percy Bysshe Shelley, who ethically advocated against the consumption of eggs and dairy. (1) However, the vegetarian diet in which Veganism derives from originated over 2000 years ago amongst prominent individuals such as Pythagoras and Siddhartha Gautama (or the Buddha). Thus, Veganism has deep roots within society and the world as a whole. Through this brief background comes the question, how does this relate to science?


Global warming and climate change are highly controversial and disastrous environmental topics. In addition to offering copious health benefits, transitioning to a plant-based diet can substantially cut dangerous emissions in order to aid in protecting our planet. A 2016 study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, modeled the results of four diets on the environment and global health: following global guidelines with a minimum on fruits and vegetables and limits on red meat, overall calories, and sugar; a vegetarian diet; a ‘normal’ diet; and a vegan diet. With relations to global warming and environmental effects, adopting the global guidelines would result in cutting food-related emissions by 29 percent, whereas a vegan diet would cut them by a whopping 70 percent. (2) This correlation can be directly attributed to the multitude of negative effects that consuming animal products has on the environment. According to the Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. (3)


In concerns to the water conservation efforts, adopting Veganism can spark a change to the amount of water used in animal agriculture. Annually, animal agriculture’s water consumption ranges from 34-76 trillion gallons. (4) Within the United States, the process of growing food crops for livestock uses 56 percent of the countries supply. (5) And for each pound of beef produced, about 2500 gallons of water are needed. (6) If you couldn’t tell, the lasting outcome of consuming animal products on water usage is quite vast.


To put it short, if you wish to become truly invested in saving our world, it is crucial to act now. Although a single person not consuming meat or animal products may seem small, a tiny change can reap benefits in the long run. Moreover, by 2050, emissions for agriculture are projected to increase 80 percent. (7) So, take a stand and reach for that vegan brand.

Photo from VeganStreet

References and Footnotes:

  1. “History.” The Vegan Society, http://www.vegansociety.com/about-us/history.
  2. Springmann, Marco, et al. “Analysis and Valuation of the Health and Climate Change Cobenefits of Dietary Change.” PNAS, National Academy of Sciences, 18 Mar. 2016, www.pnas.org/content/early/2016/03/16/1523119113.
  3. “Livestock’s Long Shadow: environmental issues and options”. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rome 2006 http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM
  4. “Summary of Estimated Water Use in the United States in 2005”. United States Geological Service https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2009/3098/pdf/2009-3098.pdf
  5. Jacobson, Michael F. “Six Arguments For a Greener Diet: How a More Plant-based Diet Could Save Your Health and the Environment. Chapter 4: More and Cleaner Water”. Washington, DC: Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2006.
  6. Pimentel, David, et al. “Water Resources: Agricultural and Environmental Issues”. BioScience (2004) 54 (10): 909-918. https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/54/10/909/230205/Water-Resources-Agricultural-and-Environmental
  7. Tilman, David & Clark, Michael. “Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health”. Nature. Vol. 515. 27 November 2014 http://academic.regis.edu/MFRANCO/Seminar%20in%20Biology%20research%20Literature/Papers/GobalDiets.pdf
  8. Photo from Studybreaks.com

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