Takes guts: Vegetarians worse for the environment than eating some meat

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Turns out vegetarians may actually be contributing to the demise of the planet more than those pesky cows the left have been raging about.

A healthy diet of greens and fruit may not be the environmentally friendly option once thought, according to recent research by Johns Hopkins University which found that dairy consumption by vegetarians is more harmful to the planet and does little to improve the carbon footprint scientists have warned about.

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“Our study found that in the UK, switching to a vegetarian diet that includes eggs and dairy is actually less helpful for reducing greenhouse gas emissions than a diet that includes meat, dairy, and eggs for one of three meals, and is exclusively plant-based for the other two meals,” one of the paper’s authors, Dr Keeve Nachman, told The Telegraph.

Scientists from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland looked at 74 food items in a study that examined 140 countries and the carbon and water footprints of nine plant-rich diets in them to conclude that a vegetarian diet may be doing more harm to the environment than good.

Instead, a “two thirds vegan” diet was touted as the ideal diet with an increase in fruits and vegetables, a decrease of dairy products, and even one portion of meat a day.

According to the Telegraph:

The new JHU research confirms this and finds that cattle, sheep and goat meat are the most greenhouse gas intensive foods, but says that dairy is not far behind.

For the UK, average food consumption contributes 1,968.1 kg of CO2e per-person, the study finds. Dairy makes up almost a quarter these emissions, jumping to two-thirds (845.6 kg) for vegetarians.

 

“Certain forms of beef production can significantly reduce our capacity for carbon sequestration. In particular, production that involves deforestation for feed production and grazing land has serious implications for our climate,” Nachman said. “Including beef in our diets at current rates would have grave consequences for the environment.”

While this warning is not surprising from environmentally-conscious climate alarmists, the idea that a “flexitarian” diet is beneficial to the planet, as it includes meat products, seems to run counter to the last few years’ studies.

A Carnegie Mellon University study in 2015 actually found that producing some vegetables created even higher greenhouse gas emissions than some types of meat.

“Lots of common vegetables require more resources per calorie than you would think,” Paul Fishbeck, co-author of the study, said, adding that “eggplant, celery, and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken.”

Fishbeck also warned that “eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon.”

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Meanwhile, the Johns Hopkins team concluded that greenhouse gases would drop by 70 percent per person if all countries adopted a vegan plant-only diet.

“These findings suggest populations could do far more to reduce their climate impact by eating mostly plants with a modest amount of low-impact meat than by eliminating meat entirely and replacing a large share of the meat’s protein and calories with dairy,” the authors said in the study.

“If the entire population of the U.S. cut out meat one day a week, that would save more than a trillion liters of water per year—equivalent to 43 percent of the water used to irrigate golf courses across the U.S. each year,” Nachman told Newsweek, though he acknowledged the study did not take into account the processing, transportation, retail, and preparation involved in the diets.

Some who may agree with Nachman may find his views on insect-based diets less palatable.

“There are many parts of the world where eating insects isn’t an outlandish idea. Based on our data, there may be great value in exploring ways to normalize this in other parts of the world,” he told The Telegraph.

Twitter users weighed in the new findings:

Frieda Powers

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