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Is Veganism Really the Most Sustainable Diet?

Is Veganism Really the Most Sustainable Diet?

The popularity of veganism has skyrocketed in recent years, with many people citing environmental concerns as a key reason for adopting a plant-based diet. However, the question of whether veganism is truly the most sustainable diet remains controversial. While a vegan diet can have many environmental benefits, there are also arguments in favor of locally-sourced, organic animal products.

Environmental Impact of Different Diets

The environmental impact of different diets is a complex and multifaceted issue. A 2018 study published in the journal Science found that a vegan diet had the lowest environmental impact, followed by a vegetarian diet, and then diets that included varying amounts of meat. The study looked at factors such as greenhouse gas emissions, land use, and water use. However, other studies have challenged this conclusion, arguing that locally-sourced, organic animal products can also be sustainable.

Arguments for Veganism as the Most Sustainable Diet

There are several reasons why some people believe that veganism is the most sustainable diet. One key argument is that animal agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, with some estimates suggesting that it is responsible for as much as 18% of global emissions. In addition, animal agriculture is associated with deforestation, water pollution, and the depletion of natural resources such as land and water.

Another argument in favor of veganism is that it can help address food insecurity by using land more efficiently. According to a 2018 report by the World Resources Institute, a shift towards plant-based diets could free up land for food production and potentially feed an additional 3.5 billion people.

Arguments for Locally-Sourced, Organic Animal Products

Despite these arguments in favor of veganism, there are also those who argue that locally-sourced, organic animal products can also be sustainable. One argument is that livestock can play a positive role in sustainable farming systems, helping to maintain soil health and biodiversity. For example, some farms use rotational grazing practices that improve soil health and sequester carbon.

In addition, locally-sourced animal products can reduce the environmental impact of transportation and distribution, which can be significant for vegan products that require long-distance shipping. Locally-sourced animal products can also support local economies and contribute to the preservation of traditional farming practices.


In conclusion, while veganism can have many environmental benefits, it is not necessarily the only sustainable diet. The environmental impact of different diets is a complex issue that depends on many factors, including the source of the food, the production methods used, and the transportation and distribution of the products. Ultimately, a sustainable diet will vary depending on the individual, the region, and the availability of food. A shift towards more plant-based diets is likely to be beneficial for the environment and for human health, but it is important to consider the nuances of different food production systems in making dietary choices.


Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, 360(6392), 987-992.

Machines, R. (2019). World Resources Report 2019: Creating a Sustainable Food Future. World Resources Institute.


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