The idea of vegetarianism and veganism is becoming more popular every day, for more than one reason. Some people say they want to live a healthier lifestyle while others want to alleviate animal suffering. And a number of people wish to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or say that living as a vegetarian or vegan is more sustainable in the long run.

By the end of the day, whatever their reasons, none of them are really wrong. To a point veganism or vegetarianism can be healthier, it's definitely better for the animals (well, they won't be eaten, so that's for sure), greenhouse gas emissions from animals is a well-known fact as well. Is it more sustainable? That could be argued, but it could be.

Greenhouse gas emissions

According to some estimations, an average family of four in the United States emits more greenhouse gases because of their meat eating habits than having two cars that they often drive with. According to a research at Oxford Martin School, if everyone would become vegetarian or vegan by 2050, the food-related emissions would drop by 60% or 70% accordingly.

Land usage

Roughly 68% of the world's agricultural land is currently being used for livestock.


If everyone would adopt vegetarianism by 2050, it could stop roughly 7 million deaths per year. For veganism the number would be around 8 million. The number comes from both - eliminating red med as well as consuming less calories while eating more fruit and vegetables.

The negatives

Now, let's imagine that the entire world population, 7 billion people suddenly became vegetarians (or vegans). And when you become vegan, you want it all - potatoes, onions, avocados, bananas, etc. But depending on where you live, much of your food would be imported from far away, which obviously isn't good when thinking about the greenhouse gas emissions, but the demand for certain vegetables will also make it impossible to eat for the local producer - simply because the prices will go too high. Even right now if you take avocados or quinoa - the prices have been pushed so high by the Western demand that they are becoming unaffordable for the people in the origin country, people who'd need them the most. Especially if they can't eat meat, they need new sources of micronutrients. It's mainly the developing world that would suffer from the switch. You might not care but I bet they do.

I don't remember where it was anymore (I guess you could find it if you searched for it), but there was a study comparing 10 different eating patterns, and when it comes to land-usage, by including some animal-source foods like milk and eggs in our diet, we need to use less land than our vegan counterparts. Especially when you consider that in many places of the world the land is, simply put, shit, and can only be used for raising livestock. Growing anything edible there isn't an option. Having livestock on the lands is also better for the land's health, productivity and biodiversity.

Not to mention, if we suddenly all went vegan, at least 1 billion people would lose their livelihood.

All in one, in theory the world could sustain veganism well (for up to 10 billion people?), and in theory it's not a bad idea at all. However, in real world it would have major negative consequences too. So while we can and we should make better food choices and help reduce the negative impact on the environment by doing that, everything should be done in moderation, and not with haste.

And the most sensible thing to do would be to stop the over-consumption - this way we will be healthier and at the same time there would be less greenhouse gas emissions. We should also stop wasting food as food waste can currently account for up to 50% of total production.