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Following a vegan diet is the biggest way to reduce our environmental impact on the world, a new study at the University of Oxford suggests.

Research says that reducing meat and dairy products from our diet could minimize an individual’s carbon footprint by 73 percent.

If these products are eliminated completely, global farmland use could be brought down significantly. The researchers found that the reduction could be up to 75 percent, an area equal to the combined area of the US, China, Australia, and the EU.

This would massively reduce greenhouse gases and clear up the wild land that vanished because of agriculture, one of the major causes of mass wildlife extinction.

The adverse effects of meat and dairy industry far outway the minuscule level of nutritional benefits it may have. The findings suggest that these products are only responsible for around 37 percent of protein levels around the world whereas the greenhouse gas emissions account for 60% of total agriculture.

This research is very accurate considering that 40 agricultural products were used in the study, which accounts for 90 percent of all food that is eaten.

Lead author Joseph Poore said:

“A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use, and water use.

“It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” he explained, which would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Avoiding consumption of animal products delivers far better environmental benefits than trying to purchase sustainable meat and dairy,” he added.

Furthermore, the research also looks into the techniques used to produce the food and its impact in terms of environmental impacts and found a big difference.

As an example, beef cattle raised on deforested lands can result in 12 times more greenhouse gas emissions than cattle reared on natural pastures.

This severely differs with emission from plant-based protein alternatives like tofu and peas.

Poore also clarified that even production methods considered sustainable by the general public such as freshwater fish farming and grass-fed beef can cause environmental problems.

Poore told the Guardian:

“Converting grass into [meat] is like converting coal to energy. It comes with an immense cost in emissions,”

This research was a result of Poore’s investigation into sustainable meat and dairy production and realizing later that the vegan diet is the answer.  He transitioned into a vegan diet after the first year.

Poor told The Independent, the next step is to put his research in practice.

“The problem is, you can’t just put environmental labels on a handful of foods and look to see if there is some effect on purchasing,” he said.

“Consumers take time to become aware of things, and then, even more, to act on them. Furthermore, the labels probably need to be in combination with taxes and subsidies. My view is that communicating information to consumers could tip the entire food system towards sustainability and accountability.”

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