Vegetarians not so green?

February 28, 2010

Vegetables good – meat bad. That’s what we keep being told by people wanting us to save the planet by going vegetarian,

But a study by the World Wildlife Fund has found that the environmental impact of growing some meat substitutes are worse than that from raising animals.

It has often been claimed that avoiding red meat is beneficial to the environment, because it lowers emissions and less land is used to produce alternatives.

But a study by Cranfield University, commissioned by WWF, the environmental group, found a substantial number of meat substitutes – such as soy, chickpeas and lentils – were more harmful to the environment because they were imported into Britain from overseas.

Far be it for me to stick up for anyone advocating we all give up meat, but this is the food miles argument which Lincoln University proved doesn’t necessarily stack up.

How far produce travels is only one factor. Lincoln’s study found New Zealand’s free range meat had a smaller environmental footprint even when transport was accounted for than meat from intensively farmed animals sold on local markets.

The study concluded: “A switch from beef and milk to highly refined livestock product analogues such as tofu could actually increase the quantity of arable land needed to supply the UK.”

The results showed that the amount of foreign land required to produce the substitute products – and the potential destruction of forests to make way for farmland – outweighed the negatives of rearing beef and lamb in the UK.

An increase in vegetarianism could result in the collapse of British farming, the study warned, causing meat production to move overseas where there may be less legal protection of forests and uncultivated land.

Meat substitutes were also found to be highly processed, often requiring large amounts of energy to produce. The study recognised that the environmental merits of vegetarianism depended largely on which types of foods were consumed as an alternative to meat.

It’s good to see an environmental group taking the trouble to investigate claims that vegetarian diets are better for the planet than those which include meat and that the study looked at the economic impact a mass conversion to vegetarianism would have.

This study shows that working out the green credentials of any produce is a complex business and being vegetarian isn’t necessarily better for the environment than eating meat.


September 11 in history

September 11, 2009

On September 11:

1816 German lens maker Carl Zeiss was born.

1862 USA author O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) was born.

1885 English writer D. H (David Herbert Richards)  Lawrence was born.

1917 English writer Jessica Mitford was born.

1928 The first Trans-Tasman flight took place.

1961 the World Wildlife Fund was formed.

1973 Chilean President Salvador Allende was killed in a revolt.

1997  Scotland voted in a referendum  to form a  devlolved parliament within the United Kingdom .

2001 The September 11 suicide attacks took place in the USA.


Twin towers of the World Trade Center burning.

Sourced from BBC On This Day, NZ History Online, Wikipedia.


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