What if tomorrow… everyone became vegan?

Our current food system puts immense pressure on the environment and will not be able to feed all human beings within 20 years. In particular livestock farming, which pollutes groundwater and monopolizes land to the detriment of forests and crops intended for human consumption. What would happen if we stopped eating meat tomorrow?




Huge ecological benefits

According to a recent study published in the journal Nature Foodvegan people – who do not consume any products of animal origin – reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) from their plate by 75% compared to that of a heavy meat consumer (more than 100 grams per day ).

PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Meat and dairy products account for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Food Organization of the United Nations.

Such a diet also uses 75% less land and 54% less water, according to the same study. It also reduces the potential loss of biodiversity by 66%. Indeed, the transformation of forests and wetlands into pastures and fields leads to significant GHG emissions and the destruction of ecosystems.

14.5%

Meat and dairy products account for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Food Organization of the United Nations.

Feed humans rather than livestock

More than 75% of the world’s agricultural land is used to raise and feed livestock, often in monocultures of corn or soybeans. “By reducing livestock farming, we will be able to cultivate more plant products for human consumption,” says Catherine Houssard, researcher at CIRAIG. The problem is not eating meat, it is the disproportionate quantity we consume compared to our real needs and the issues related to intensive farming. »

PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Many farmers are caught in a system that is difficult to change, with the responsibility of feeding a growing population.

Production methods must change, by limiting the use of nitrogen fertilizers, an environmental and health hazard, and by encouraging sustainable methods such as precision agriculture and permaculture. Degraded natural environments could be restored and become carbon sinks.

12%

In Quebec, 12% of cultivated corn goes to the production of ethanol, a biofuel, according to Patrick Mundler, professor at the faculty of agricultural and food sciences at Laval University. The World Resources Institute (WRI) denounces the worrying reduction in crops intended for direct local food supply to populations in favor of biofuels.

Social pragmatism

Many farmers are caught in a system that is difficult to change, with the responsibility of feeding a growing population. “Breeders who have invested in large buildings for two generations are not going to produce organic vegetables with the wave of a magic wand,” gives Patrick Mundler as an example. Agricultural policies will absolutely have to support the transition towards better practices.

For example, small herds fed exclusively on grass generate lower production costs and have ecological advantages, under certain conditions. “We must favor local and territorial agriculture, with more artisans who keep the villages alive,” adds Mr. Mundler.

Targeted choices

In the absence of “all-vegan”, targeted individual choices can have significant impacts. Replacing 10% of daily calorie intake from processed meats with fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and some seafood would reduce our carbon footprint by a third. This would save 48 minutes of healthy life per day, according to a study published in Nature Food.

PHOTO SARAH MONGEAU-BIRKETT, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Quebecers buy 81 kg of meat and fish per year, which represents 36% of the carbon footprint of the plate.

Local and seasonal products should be favored. “Asparagus from Quebec should be consumed in May,” illustrates Catherine Houssard. The rest of the time, they come from Chile and have as much impact as a piece of chicken. » Be careful with food grown in winter in greenhouses, mostly heated with oil or natural gas. Reducing food waste as much as possible is also very effective.

36%

Quebecers buy 81 kg of meat and fish per year, which represents 36% of the carbon footprint of the plate, according to data from CIRAIG. Pound for weight, beef emits five times more GHGs than cheese and seven times more than pork.

In better health

PHOTO ALAIN ROBERGE, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Doubling global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes and cutting red meat and sugar in half would prevent around 11 million premature human deaths per year.

Doubling global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes and cutting red meat and sugar in half would prevent around 11 million premature human deaths per year, according to Eat magazine’s report. The Lancet.

“We do not all have the same needs or abilities to assimilate plant proteins, some may have deficiencies,” underlines Véronique Provencher, professor and researcher at the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods at Laval University. If the Canada’s Food Guide is a good reference tool for a healthy and sustainable diet, the public should be better informed about quality plant-based alternatives to replace animal proteins, according to Mme Provencher.

Foods consumed in Quebec

Soft drink

  • Share on the plate: 40%
  • Share of carbon footprint: 3%

Fruits and vegetables

  • Share on the plate: 19%
  • Share of carbon footprint: 9%

Cereals and breads

  • Share on the plate: 11%
  • Share of carbon footprint: 8%

Dairy products

  • Share on the plate: 10%
  • Share of carbon footprint: 15%

Meats and fish

  • Share on the plate: 7%
  • Share of carbon footprint: 36%

Alcoholic beverages

  • Share on the plate: 6%
  • Share of carbon footprint: 6%

Nuts and legumes

  • Share on the plate: 2%
  • Share of carbon footprint: 3%

Chocolates and snacks

  • Share on the plate: 2%
  • Share of carbon footprint: 10%

Others

  • Share on the plate: 2%
  • Share of carbon footprint: 5%

Coffee and tea

  • Share on the plate: 1%
  • Share of carbon footprint: 5%

Eggs

  • Share on the plate: 1%
  • Share of carbon footprint: 1%


reference: www.lapresse.ca

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