New Scientist - Vegan Society letter of reply
On Sat 17 Jul 2010, New Scientist magazine ran as a cover story, "What happens if we all quit meat? Why eating greens won't save the world." by Bob Holmes (pp28-31 http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20727691.200-veggieworld-why-eating-greens-wont-save-the-planet.html). The Vegan Society has submitted this letter in response.
To The Editor, New Scientist,
Bob Holmes looks at giving up meat on environmental grounds.
The broad scientific consensus is that current animal farming techniques have very high, and unsustainable, environmental impacts. Not just meat, but cow's milk, cattle leather and other things we take from farmed animals are implicated. The Vegan Society review the evidence in our Global Food Security literature: http://www.vegansociety.com/resources/food-security.aspx (which includes references).
Bob Holmes tacitly accepts this extensive evidence. He then suggests that radical transformation of the animal farming industry might cut this damage. We note that climate change emissions may rise in these scenarios.
But to a customer standing in a supermarket now - deciding whether or not buy meat today - all these potential future changes are irrelevant.
The fact remains that the world animal farming industry right now is in the top three causes of all major environmental problems - from local water pollution to global climate change. The scale and rapid deepening of the global climate and hunger crises are not yet being matched by an animal farming revolution. Growing plant crops to eat 'first hand' is already making much better use of scarce resources.
The United Nations estimate that 1 billion humans are malnourished, and that the basic needs of 3.5 billion humans could be met by the grain currently fed to farmed animals. A well-planned vegan diet needs just one third the fertile land, fresh water and energy used by the current typical British meat-and-dairy based diet, based on scientific evidence.
So New Scientist readers could easily form the wrong impression from your published article.
What matters at the moment are the environmental realities of the animal farming industry, now.
There is a strong environmental case for switching to a plant-based diet and lifestyle today.
PR and Media Officer
The Vegan Society