Since 2014, Veganuary has inspired and supported more than half a million people in 178 countries to try vegan for January - and beyond. To celebrate Veganuary, Keble College student Paula Kirchhof shares a an opinion piece with us, on the benefits of a plant based diet.
Were you aware of the fact that the University of Oxford has some of the most research on plant-based vegan diets? One of the main impacts that a vegan diet has is on your environmental footprint. By going vegan for a month, you are saving 273kg of CO2. This is as much as a flight from London to Munich! You wonder why? For every litre of milk and every gram of meat, a living animal has to be fed.
Around 80% of the agricultural land in the US is being used solely to feed animals. All of those animals have one thing in common, they produce excrement. And this has to be binned somewhere. Many tons of waste end up in giant pits in the ground or on crops, polluting the air and groundwater. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), agricultural runoff is the number one source of pollution in our waterways. We are currently feeding 70-100 billion land animals, while 800 million people are starving at the same time. Although there is sufficient food across the globe, it is not fairly distributed.
You have probably heard about the bushfires in Australia. Photos picturing dying or hurt kangaroos and koalas are breaking hearts across social media. But why is it that we feel sad about the death of one species, but not another? This is called ‘speciesism’ and has no logical grounds. Did you know that a pig has cognitive ability similar to a that of a 3-year-old child? They are clean and emotional animals, and can also communicate with over 20 unique vocalisations. A sheep can recognise up to 50 faces and can learn to respond to its own name. Similar to humans, they feel pain and are horrified on their way to the slaughterhouses. A cow screams for weeks when its new-born is taken by humans to misuse the mother cow’s milk.
If you think about it, a cow’s milk is not much different from a human mother’s milk. Its intended purpose is to make the calf grow very fast to a several ton cow. Humans do not require the same amount of growth hormones. There are many studies, several of those by the University, showing that “well-balanced and predominantly plant-based diets can lead to improved nutrient levels, reduce premature deaths from chronic diseases by more than 20%”.
‘Veganuary’ provides a great opportunity to try a plant-based diet. Explore Oxford from a different angle, it has so many great vegan places!