‘So Much More Efficient’: David Attenborough Promotes Plant-Based Diets

In an episode of ‘Planet Earth III,’ Sir David Attenborough spoke about the environmental benefits of plant-based food

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3 Minutes Read

David Attenborough speaking at an event David Attenborough has previously spoken about the need to reduce meat consumption - Media Credit: Alistair Heap / Alamy Stock Photo

Moving from meat and dairy to plant-based food would bring huge environmental benefits, Sir David Attenborough has said in the latest episode of Planet Earth III

In an episode named “Human”, which aired on BBC One on Sunday night, Sir David praised plant-based diets for being “so much more efficient.”

“A profound impact on the natural world”

Planet Earth III is full of footage of the destruction inflicted on rainforests around the world. Sir David has been committed to shining a light on the biodiversity loss ravaging the planet.

Until recently, however, many of his documentaries have shied away from pointing a finger at animal agriculture, which is the number one cause of deforestation.

In last night’s episode, he was more direct. “Currently the vast majority of agricultural land – more than 75 percent – is used to raise livestock and this is very inefficient,” he told viewers. 

He also said that we “rear 70 billion farm animals each year and every one of them needs feeding.”

Sir David added that “producing the food for such numbers of domesticated animals is having a profound impact on the natural world.”

Plant-based diets give back to nature

A graphic image from David Attenborough's BBC show Planet Earth
BBC Planet Earth is available to watch now

Turning to the environmental destruction that he has witnessed during his decades-long career, Attenborough laid out the impacts of animal agriculture.

“Year after year, we clear over two million hectares of the Amazon forest – an area the size of Wales. And we use nearly all of it to make more space for cattle and to grow soya to feed our livestock.”

He added: “If we shift away from eating meat and dairy and move towards a plant-based diet then the sun’s energy goes directly into growing our food. And because that’s so much more efficient, we could still produce enough to feed us but do so using a quarter of the land.”

Studies have shown that shifting to a plant-based food system could free up an area the size of the United States, China, the European Union, and Australia combined. This space “could then be given back to nature,” Attenborough added.

Wide shot image of people planting trees on land that used to be used for animal farming
Adobe Stock Shifting to a plant-based food system could free up an area the size of the United States, China, the European Union, and Australia combined

Is David Attenborough vegan?

He is widely renowned for his work in educating people about the climate crisis, but Sir David is not currently thought to be vegan. Last year, he was confronted by a climate protestor at a fish restaurant.

The much-loved presenter has previously spoken about the need to reduce meat consumption.

In 2020, he released a film named A Life On Our Planet, in which he spoke about the huge impact of meat.

We must change our diet. The true tragedy of our time is still unfolding – the loss of biodiversity,” Attenborough said in the film. “Half of fertile land on Earth is now farmland, 70 percent of birds are domestic, majority chickens. There’s little left for the world. We have completely destroyed it.”

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