What would hap­pen if every­one on the planet sud­denly went ve­gan?

Focus-Science and Technology - - Q & A - JASPER WIL­SON,

1. ANIMAL SANC­TU­AR­IES

Ve­g­an­ism seeks to ex­clude all cru­elty to an­i­mals. Sim­ply open­ing the farm gates to the ex­ist­ing stock of 3.5 bil­lion graz­ing an­i­mals and 19 bil­lion chick­ens wouldn’t work. Most would starve to death or be eaten by preda­tors. In­stead, farms would need to be con­verted into sanc­tu­ar­ies for the re­main­ing nat­u­ral lives of the an­i­mals.

2. EMIS­SIONS

Food pro­duc­tion is re­spon­si­ble for a quar­ter of all green­house gas emis­sions, mostly from cows burp­ing meth­ane. Meth­ane is such a potent green­house gas that a global switch to plant-based di­ets would cut emis­sions from food pro­duc­tion by 28 per cent – that’s the equiv­a­lent of In­dia go­ing car­bon neu­tral.

3. LAND USE

Cur­rently, 68 per cent of farm­land is used for live­stock. Plant­ing a fifth of this with crops would pro­duce the same amount of food as all the an­i­mals. This would leave 26 mil­lion square kilo­me­tres spare – an area 1.5 times the size of Russia – that could be planted with meadow or for­est, to im­prove bio­di­ver­sity.

4. HEALTH

If we all gave up meat, around eight mil­lion fewer peo­ple would die each year, as a re­sult of lower lev­els of heart dis­ease, strokes and can­cer. But most crops have lower lev­els of mi­cronu­tri­ents per calo­rie than meat – es­pe­cially vi­ta­mins A, B12 and D, and some es­sen­tial fatty acids. Crops would have to be ad­justed to avoid mal­nu­tri­tion.

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