Christmas dinner is arguably the most important part of Christmas. However, because the meal is traditionally filled with meat and dairy, it comes with a cost. Here are the 5 main reasons why you should veganize your Christmas dinner.
Energy and Water Use
Plant foods require a lot less energy and water to grow, harvest and process than their meat and dairy counterparts. According to the Water Footprint Network, it takes 2,000 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef and 500 gallons for one pound of poultry. This is a highly inefficient use of water considering, according to the WWF, 1.1 billion people lack access to water. Plant foods, like potatoes, can use water much more efficiently. One pound of potatoes requires 100 gallons of water- 20x less than beef and 5x less than poultry. A study done by the American Society for Clinical Nutrition also found that diets more heavily based on plants require a lot less energy than diets based in meat.
Cows are notably high emitters of greenhouse gases like carbon, nitrous oxide, and methane. One beef patty has a 10x higher global warming potential than a substitute like a Beyond Burger, meaning it has a much higher rate of greenhouse gas emissions, and according to the Food Climate Research Network, 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock alone. While plant foods are also guilty of emissions due to fertilizer use and necessary transportation, it’s at a much smaller scale than livestock. A vegan diet has a carbon footprint of 1.5 tons of CO2e (Carbon Dioxide Equivalent), whereas a meat-lovers diet has a footprint of 3.3 tons.
Livestock is being pumped with antibiotics at unprecedented rates. These antibiotics are being used as growth stimulators, not in an attempt to cure disease. Humans are exposed to these antibiotics through eating meat, and by being exposed to these antibiotics at low levels for a long period of time, humans could become resistant to their effectiveness, and antibiotics could no longer be effective at killing off bacteria in humans. While research is not 100% conclusive, it is clear that antibiotics need to stop being used on animals at such rates, and people can protect themselves by avoiding meat.
Manure that comes from livestock is a cause of dangerous water pollution. Rains and wind can drive manure into bodies of water, and this nitrogen-rich manure causes a process called eutrophication to take place. Eutrophication is where an excess of nutrients, notably nitrogen, ends up in a body of water and leads to the growth of plants like algal blooms. These plants use up a lot of the oxygen in the water, causing animal life to die due to oxygen depletion. Manure leaching into the water is also problematic to human health, as it can cause many health problems if ingested.
Earlier this year the Amazon Rainforest experienced a highly destructive fire that was said to be caused by deforestation. This deforestation was a direct result of Brazil’s growing agricultural sector that is largely driven by soybeans. These soybeans are being grown at a higher and higher rate to be used in livestock feed- not to be fed for humans. Livestock require such high amounts of feed that vast swaths of land have to be deforested just to grow their feed, when this land could otherwise be used to directly feed humans.
Are you convinced to try out a vegan Christmas dinner? Check out our recipe for sweet potato and mushroom wellington:
is the blog manager for Zero Waste Club, combining her love for writing with her passion for all things environmental sustainability. She is currently a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she is studying journalism, environmental studies, and food studies in hopes of building a career in environmental activism. You can find her on Instagram as @kaylaguilliams.