What could happen if everyone on Earth adopted a vegan lifestyle? It’s one of those tantalising hypotheticals that really gets you thinking, right? Well, we’re going to take a closer look at the potential answers. From animals and food to the economy and environment, no stone will be left unturned here. So, let’s dive into it!
What is veganism?
First things first — let’s establish what “going vegan” actually entails. After all, some people might confuse it with becoming a vegetarian. Nope, they aren’t the same! Sure, there are similarities, but there’s a key difference between them as well. The biggest of the resemblances is that both diets swear off meat-eating.
Here’s the difference, though. While a vegetarian can still eat dairy products and items such as eggs, vegans won’t touch that stuff, either. You see, those who follow the latter lifestyle have no interest in consuming anything related to animals, not just their meat. But why is that? What’s the logic?
Well, the Bright Side website summed it up pretty clearly in an article. It read: “The main reason for this phenomenon is ethical, since vegans don’t want animals to suffer [or] die to satisfy the needs of humanity.” And that ideology’s certainly caught on with lots of people around the world.
Yes, according to stats on The Vou website, there were almost 80 million practising vegans across the globe in 2021. That’s a huge number. But here’s some perspective — in total, that doesn’t even cover one percent of all the people living on our planet. We’re serious! Pretty wild when you look at it like that, right?
So, that brings us back to our earlier question. What might happen if that one percent suddenly surged to 100? Could it make any kind of impact? To kick things off, let’s focus on the animals. Given that vegans want to protect them, what would the creatures’ situation look like in this new world?
Honestly? It wouldn’t look great. Think about it, folks. If we aren’t relying on farm animals for our food supplies anymore, then there’s no need to keep them on farms. In simple terms, that means their owners may well release the creatures into the wild. And that isn’t as positive as it might sound at first.
To be blunt, not all farm animals are equipped to survive in nature. Take chickens, for instance. Compared to their predecessors, the poultry of today would find it very difficult to get to grips with a life away from humans. Still, other creatures might have a better chance.
Yep, animals such as pigs and sheep could theoretically find a place for themselves. Yet there are issues with that, too. For example, they wouldn’t be safe from predatory creatures. Plus, their “new” food supply would also pale in comparison to what they’d had back on the farms. That’s a major problem.
Would vegans want this?
So farm animals, whose global numbers are currently in the billions, would be right up against it if they were all suddenly released. But that flies in the face of what vegans stand for. Ultimately, they want to protect these creatures. Keeping that in mind, what could the alternatives be?
Well, here’s one potential solution: people could construct sanctuaries for the animals no longer needed by farmers. That way, the creatures would be protected and cared for in equal measure. Sounds ideal, wouldn’t you agree? Certainly beats the dangers posed in the wild. Then again, that particular pathway isn’t without its problems, either.
The biggest issue would arguably be the finances involved. Quite simply, who could possibly fund all these animal sanctuaries? It’d be a very expensive endeavor. And how long might they function if cash did indeed run out? To say that we’d be left with a massive conundrum is an understatement!
The economic impact?
Sticking with money, let’s focus on the economic impact that worldwide veganism could have. Unsurprisingly, with no use for dairy or meat anymore, employees working in those sectors would be out of a job. We’re talking millions here — that’s a lot of livelihoods being thrown into jeopardy across the globe. Then, there are the farmers.
Problems for farmers
We’ve already established that farmers wouldn’t have much use for their animals if we all went vegan. And that could be potentially catastrophic for the agricultural sector as a whole. So, how else might these guys make money? Well, there are alternatives to livestock, as we’re about to find out.
A change of focus
Yes, providing that they have the correct tools, farmers could simply put more focus on their crops. Fruit and veg would now be in higher demand, so why not capitalize on that? It’d keep their businesses going. Yet such transitions would be far from straightforward. There’d be plenty of headaches along the way!
What about our health, though? How could that be affected by making the switch to veganism? Well, we wouldn’t be surprised if many of you believed that a vegan diet might give you a boost. After all, you’d be ditching many foods that can cause a litany of issues, such as heart disease.
A staggering figure
Analysts from Oxford Martin School are certainly of the opinion that global health could improve by going vegan. According to a report they compiled back in 2016, over eight million fatalities would be prevented annually by the year 2050. Talk about an eye-opening figure. Mind you, here’s something else to consider.
“Miss out on vital nutrients”
Environmental expert Paul Allen made an interesting point while writing for BBC Good Food. “Being vegan doesn’t necessarily mean you’re eating healthily,” he explained. “You can chow down on junk food and miss out on vital nutrients, whether you eat meat or not.” Allen then provided some additional details.
“For example, vegan diets are naturally low in calcium, vitamin D, iron, vitamin B12, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids,” Allen continued. “If you’re following a vegan diet, it’s important to include protein. Foods such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, [and] tofu. Soya versions of milk and yogurt, and peanuts, are [also] good vegan sources of protein.”
Problems with coconut oil
Got all that? Awesome! Allen pointed out that certain vegan items could be problematic in other ways, too. He flagged up coconut oil in that regard, stating that it houses plenty of saturated fat. Despite his warnings, though, the environmental expert did want to make one more thing clear.
“The right food balance”
“It’s easy to get the right food balance as a vegan,” Allen added. “But you need to be aware of what you’re eating — good advice for omnivores and herbivores alike.” We know that’s a lot to take in, folks. Yet potentially one of the most striking impacts of worldwide veganism is still to come. So, we hope you’re ready!
It brings us back to the Oxford Martin School report from 2016. The paper, which was shared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal at the time, took a closer look at “food-related greenhouse gas emissions.” Specifically, the analysts posed the following question: how could widespread veganism affect this?
Well, the answer to that might blow your mind. As per the paper, a worldwide vegan diet could slash those emissions down by roughly 70 percent going into the year 2050. That isn’t a typo. Holy smokes! But why’s that so important? What do the gases actually do to the environment?
What it all means
Let’s clear it up. According to the United Nations, farm animals produce nearly 15 percent of “all man-made greenhouse gas emissions” on the planet. Cows are one of the biggest culprits in that regard. Due to their huge numbers around the globe, their methane output’s very bad for the environment.
You see, a single cow can release more than 260 pounds’ worth of methane each year just by breaking wind. And as the narrator of a What If video on YouTube noted, “On the climate change scale, methane’s negative effect is 23 times higher than carbon dioxide.” Pretty eye opening, right? But it doesn’t stop there.
A shocking bit of info
These emissions from farm animals match the gases given off by all the vehicles on Earth — combined. Yep, from airplanes to automobiles, none of them can surpass it. It might be hard to believe, but it’s true! Who could’ve predicted that cows and their fellow barnyard friends posed this much of a problem when it comes to climate change?
Anyway, that should give you a better idea of why Oxford Martin School’s projected figure’s so intriguing. Our planet could benefit from mass veganism in a huge way in the future. What else would change, though? Beyond the environment and our eating habits, is there anything else? You bet!
Ecologically speaking, a worldwide vegan diet might have a very interesting effect. As per Science Focus, farm animals use close to 70 percent of their owners’ lands. Now, if just 20 percent of that space was utilized to grow crops instead, the results would be staggering. Vegans certainly wouldn’t have to worry about a lack of food going forward.
So much space!
Plus, with no more farm animals on those lands, the remaining areas could house freshly planted trees as well. In total, Science Focus notes that we’d be looking at over 25 million square kilometers of space. Think of how much that’d help our environment. It’s never a bad thing to see a new batch of saplings.
Mind you, for as bright as that all sounds, there are downsides, too. For instance, to ensure that crops remain untouched on the land, farmers would have to be vigilant against smaller creatures. We’re referring to mice, rats — you get the picture. But again, exterminating them goes against the very thing vegans want.
Children and pets
It’d be quite the dilemma, right? Speaking of which, this leads us on to another couple of issues that worldwide veganism could bring to the fore. Ask yourself this: would that diet benefit young kids? And what about your pets? If meat’s no longer on the menu for you, it won’t be for them, either.
We’ll start with the kids. It goes without saying that their bodies require a healthy amount of nutrients. And as we’ve already discovered, a vegan diet can be lacking in certain regards. Could that negatively affect them in the long-run? It’s possible. You’d have to be very careful with newborns in particular.
Vegan pet food
As for your pets, vegan alternatives have been around on the shelves for a while. But are those products good for the animals? Well, to be completely honest, no one really knows for sure. It’s a subject that requires a lot more analysis going forward. Speculatively, though? Bright Side suggests that canines might be okay with it.
No-go for cats?
Yet cats are an altogether different story here. While it’s easy to forget, our feline friends are indeed predatory creatures, unlike dogs. They absolutely require normal cat food. So, once more, this creates a conundrum. The vegan movement’s meant to help improve the lives of animals, not make things more challenging for them!
Anyway, that’s quite a lot to digest, wouldn’t you agree? Not all hypothetical questions generate this much thought and curiosity! But one thing’s for sure. If this were to ever happen in the future, our world would look pretty different compared to today. It’s amazing what a change of diet could do.