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Suffice to say, this whole post is an educated guess. PLEASE DON’T LEAVE. At least not yet. You won’t find a post that definitively states what will defo happen if everyone went vegan tomorrow. Unless equipped with a magic ball, no one knows exactly.
However, I can tell you what won’t happen, which sounds weird, but I feel like I need to refute a few of the common myths that are still hanging around when people pose the ‘what would happen’ question.
I’ll tackle this question in a few different parts because there are a lot of areas of life that would be affected by a worldwide vegan shift – things like the economy, farming, wildlife, health, climate change, and the extinction and/or overpopulation of the various animals we keep as livestock.
Let’s crack on, I have a lot of educated guesswork to get through:
There’s a myth that keeps doing that rounds that claims that the economy would be negatively affected if we all went vegan.
But the economy isn’t as cut and dry as that. Sure, a lot of dairy and meat farmers would be out of business (if they choose to ignore the writing on the wall and fail to diversify in time), but they tend to have a negative effect on the economy because taxpayer’s money is chucked at them in the form of subsidies.
Sure, the price is lowered, but we’re still paying for it. And as a vegan, that’s pissing annoying.
The widespread effect on the economy is as yet unknown. Especially in terms of health and climate change. If rates of bowel cancer and heart disease decrease (which have both been linked to diets high in red meat) health care costs could plummet. Diseases like diabetes are linked to diets high in saturated fat, which vegan diets tend not to be.
The government pays out billions for disaster management – flood defences, dealing with the aftermath of extreme weather, be it hurricanes, flooding or fire.
Whilst it’s unclear exactly how positive an effect the world going vegan could have on our economies, one thing is clear: our current appetite for animal products is leading in the complete opposite direction.
This is a biggie. It’s a common belief that if we stopped eating animals and their secretions, and just ate plants, we won’t have enough land to sate the world.
But these people seem to forget that we need to feed these animals too, and we need to feed them A LOT in order to grow ’em quick enough to make the whole affair cost effective.
Of all the land used to grow food now, 68% is used for livestock. SIxTY EIGHT PERCENT.
What about soya? the meateaters whine. Isn’t it a monoculture that devastates rainforests? Yup. But it ain’t grown for human consumption. It’s grown for animal feed. So we could definitely cut the amount of soya grown in half (up 90% of all soya grown is feed to animals), probably considerably more.
So don’t worry about having enough land to grow if we all went vegan. We’d actually end up freeing up a lot of land.
If we all went whole-food plant-based, then the ramifications in terms of health would be astronomical. As in, certain types of cancer could be nigh-on eliminated.
But we’re not going to do that. I’m certainly not.
In general though, we’d be eating more fibre and less fat, so like I mentioned before, rates for diseases like heart disease and diabetes would start to fall, rather than rise. By how much really depends on what everyone’s vegetable-to-Coop-doughnut ratio.
Let’s just say there would be a lot more of it if we didn’t farm animals. And you can say all you want about needing to protect crops, but you can do so by other means rather than just killing them.
If killing animals for food was banned, I like to think we’d become more compassionate, so growing food in greenhouses and using fencing would be the norm, rather than traps and shooting.
The land freed up from grazing would rewild, so hopefully we could get back a few of the wildflower meadows that were lost (in England, anyway). Since we’d no longer farm bees, there would less risk of disease transmitting from bees from other countries (a large factor behind the decrease in the world’s bee population).
Palm oil production wouldn’t be affected, BUT since we’d no longer need as much soya and land to graze cattle, hopefully the need to chop down the rainforest would diminish. Although if the world went vegan it would probably be due to climate change, and if that were the case I’d like to think the rainforests would be protected, because, you know, they’re the lungs of the earth.
The increase in compassion would mean we’d have more people feeding animals that need a bit of help, like hedgehogs, and less need to kill animals like bears, tigers, and foxes to protect livestock. We can but hope.
According to this study, if we all went vegan, manmade greenhouse gas emissions would shrink by 70% by 2050. If you hadn’t already realised, that’s pretty significant. The same study puts a cash amount on that: the economy would save 440 billion quid. That’s…quite a lot.
Would cows take over if everyone became vegan?
We breed them. We force them to bear more young that they ever would in the wild, over a significantly shortened life span.
This is something parents tell kids when their kids decide that eating cows is mean, and the parents panic.
Parents: your tiny child is correct. Eating cows is mean.
Would cows go extinct if everyone became vegan?
Well, maybe. But who cares? I assure you, the cows don’t give a shit or even notice.
But there will be people that keep cows as pets, and there are wild forms that we don’t eat, so it’s cool. The last remaining domestic cows would hoping end up in sanctuaries, but if not, they’re no worse off than the billions of cows that died before them.
What would happen to the livestock if we all went vegan tomorrow?
That probably won’t happen, btw. It just won’t. Gradually over time demand will dwindle, until no cows are bred at all.
But let’s say something catastrophic happened (probably to do with climate change) and we all had to go vegan tomorrow. What would happen to the cows and sheeps etc?
Obviously that’s up to the government, but worse case scenario (and weirdly, the answer that most meat eaters are looking for when they ask vegans this) is that they’re all slaughtered.
That’s it. That’s what will happen. Exactly the same thing that’s going to happen to them anyway. They won’t be turned loose to run rampage and eventually starve to death because…well, why would they be?
This is unintentionally onesided. If you can think of any negative side effects of the world going vegan, leave them in the comments. Even if it’s just that you’d miss bacon; that’s valid. I miss cheese.
You know what is sad though? The prospect that we could save billions of lives, both human and animal, but we don’t because we like the taste of something.
If you actually need to eat meat to survive, I’m not talking to you. You’re allowed.
It’s the rest of you idiots out there.
This is especially resonant after all that footage of the burned koalas. They were burned because of cliamte change, which we can slow by cutting back on burgers. THINK OF THE KOALAS.
4 thoughts on “WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF EVERYONE WENT VEGAN?”
My boyfriend and I just stumbled across your blog and read through a few articles. We’re both biology students and vegan since a long time. Reading your articles reinforced our belives in the positive enegry behind veganism. Also the way you’re writing is really refreshing and inspirational.
We’ll surely pass on your blog to a lot of people. Thanks for being so inspiring!
Kindest regards from Germany,
Marie & Simon
Thank you for such a lovely comment!
There is some things to consider. First, it takes a lot more vegetables to feed a human than it does meat. Second, you can house thousands of chickens in a space a quarter the size of your average field of crops. This is in Canada where we treat our animals properly not in the US where they raise chicken in square foot boxes btw. Each one of those chickens is about one meal for the average family, that means that in this one building there is enough food to feed 8 or 9 families for about a year. You can house these chickens all year round, no matter the weather outside. Chickens eat very little , they are fully grown in a number of weeks, each chicken can lay 6 or 7 eggs on average a week, these can hatch more chicks or be eaten as they are. Chickens are also a very lean meat which has it’s own benefits to society when we eat them. Another thing to consider is packaging, almost all vegetables at a store are in plastic bags and wrapping and such, it is different if you grow your own, so if you do that, good on you. Don’t get me wrong meant at the store has that too, but if you get your meat directly from a butcher, it is firstly much cheaper, it doesn’t need to be shipped across the world if you buy locally, and there is less packaging involved. It is true that some meat is much more wasteful than others, I am with you on cows. They take a long time to grow up, they can only have about 1 calf a year, they require a lot of land to graze, and they need a lot of food. It depends how you live and where your get your meat from, in some cases, maybe vegan or vegetarian is better, I don’t know. But the same goes the other way around, sometimes it is much more environmentally friendly to eat meat. There are a lot of deciding factors and different aspects at play here.
It does take a lot more vegetables to feed a human BUT you’d need waaaaay fewer veggies overall if we were only feeding humans. Currently we’re feeding billions of livestock animals too. Your second point is that you can fit more chickens in a space than you can crops, but what about the crops to feed the chickens? And the water.
I do grow my own vegetables, but it’s extremely inefficient, compared to buying from a professional farmer. I do it as a hobby, and because it’s part of my work (I write about plants). I’m self sufficient in parsley, but the rest of the time I have gluts of couple of things, and nothing else.
Plastic packaging is not a clear cut issue – veggies like broccoli last much longer if packaged in plastic. If we eliminate food wastage as much as possible, we’ll really reduce the impact our food choices have, regardless of whether we eat meat or not. The key here is to package things appropriately, rather than automatically in plastic. Mushrooms, for example, are best packaged in paper bags. Or compulsory use of compostable packaging.
Buying from butchers is also not as clear cut as you might think. A butcher is not automatically going to be selling local meat. Butchers here in the uk are far more likely to be selling New Zealand lamb because it would be too expensive to sell British lamb. most of our lamb (and fish) is exported to Europe. Butchers are also considerably more expensive than supermarkets because they don’t benefit from the economies of scale that supermarkets do. Buying in bulk obviously, but also having cheaper rent because they can operate away from town centres.
There are very few instances where it’s more environmentally friendly to eat meat. The only one I can think of would be eating deer, since they’re wild animals (…kinda, they tend to be owned by large estates) but eating venison gives a lot of people the ick.
Environmentally friendly farming usually comes at the cost of decreased welfare – this should be unacceptable considering the vast majority of people don’t need to eat meat at all (or could stand to cut back a lot).
You’re right – there are a tonne of factors at play. One thing I think we can all agree on though is that our governments won’t do anything about the environment until it’s too late and eating meat is no longer an option. If we could all dial our consumption back NOW, we might be ok, but that’s not in our nature.