Grazing animals on land Animal agriculture is to blame for significant land use, research says. - Media Credit: Adobe Stock

Eating Less Meat And More Plants Could Help Protect 500 UK Species, Report Finds

Animal agriculture requires the use of vast amounts of habitat, affecting the prevalence of many plant and animal species

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2 Minutes Read

What we eat can influence the biodiversity around us, according to a new report published this month. Researchers found that reducing meat intake in favor of more plant-based foods could help reverse the decline of more than 500 species in the UK.

The Food Foundation, an independent organization, assembled the report. With its research, the foundation aims to guide decision-makers in drawing up policies that address public health and nutrition as well as sustainability.

Researchers found that UK fruit and vegetable consumption currently falls below the five-a-day recommendation. They proposed that increasing produce intake to meet this recommendation, while reducing meat and sugar on a per calorie basis, would bring with it “significant health and environmental benefits.”

Meat, land use, and biodiversity

In general, animal agriculture requires significantly more land than the production of plant-based foods. For instance, it takes 100 times as much land to produce a kilocalorie of beef or lamb, when compared to plant-based alternatives.

Similarly high figures are seen in non-food, animal-derived products, such as wool, which requires 367 times more land to produce than cotton.

The new report maintains that if the UK population increased vegetable consumption by a handful a day, and reduced red meat intake by 5.5 grams a day, a significant amount of habitable area would be freed up.

Specifically, it expects up to 27 percent of land currently keeping grazing livestock could instead be used to foster biodiversity.

Looking at two models – both of which suggest increasing vegetables and reducing meat – an estimated 407 or 536 species (depending on the model) would gain habitable area of more than 10 percent.

Age of extinction

Further, the authors warn that failing to address land use in this way could result in 626 species losing habitable area (of more than 10 percent), due to symptoms of the worsening climate crisis.

“According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, one million animal and plant species globally are now threatened with extinction and a significant portion of this threat has been caused by land use changes associated with food production,” the report reads, warning that we may be entering the “sixth age of extinction.”

The report calls its proposed approach a “win-win-win,” given that it could have “positive outcomes” for biodiversity, carbon output, and public health.

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The Author

Jemima Webber

Jemima is the Head of Editorial of Plant Based News. Aside from writing about climate and animal rights issues, she studies psychology in Newcastle, Australia (where she was born).

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Rowland Ross
Rowland Ross
4 months ago

A group of people that would like to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables eaten by the public (Excellent) but who haven’t got a clue when it comes to land use ( it’ an incredibly complex subject ).

The author of this article is being incredibly dishonest or naïve to use a chart that includes the whole world ( this includes most of Mongolia as well as large chunks of the Us, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, etc ) as being representative of the UK, which in percentage terms hasn’t changed much since the first accurate surveys taken in 1875.

Plant Based News Moderator
Plant Based News Moderator
4 months ago
Reply to  Rowland Ross

Hi Rowland, Thanks for your comment.

We will pass on your kind words to the author.

It’s worth noting that animal agriculture takes up around 83% of the world’s farmland, and yet provides the world with only 18% of our calories.

Rowland Ross
Rowland Ross
4 months ago

Thirty six percent of UK farmland is arable of the remaining sixty four percent most is classified as “Hill Farm” virtually none of it is suitable for crops. Of the 36% arable only approx 60% is usable without recourse to artificial fertiliser and other agro-chemicals.

With regard to world figures it depends on what you classify as “Farmland”. I would not call open natural grasslands “Farmland” I would therefore consider the classification to be highly suspect.

PS. As I’ve said before it’s a highly complex subject. The statements I made are are factual and do not reflect my personal feelings on the subject.

Plant Based News Moderator
Plant Based News Moderator
4 months ago
Reply to  Rowland Ross

Hi Rowland, if the world was to switch to a plant-based diet, we would require 75% less agricultural land, and would be able to easily rewild the agricultural land not suitable for growing human crops.

Rowland Ross
Rowland Ross
4 months ago

I understand that as a vegan you are opposed to the use of animals, that’s a personal view not a fact.

I’m a hard nosed Biocentrist that’s watching the world go to pot, I deal in facts. The facts regarding food production are as follows: 1. (the single biggest problem) The world is obscenely overpopulated. 2. Steps need to be taken to curb the upward trend. 3. The population needs to be fed in a way that is non damaging to the Biosphere (no Biosphere no life) In order to feed anything (plant, animal or human) you need fertile soil. We have a minimum of 50 harvests left on the major cropping lands of the world and we are losing topsoil at the rate of 23 hectares per minute 24/7. 4. Current agriculture is “high input industrial” ie. Fertiliser for plants, feed for animals. Neither is sustainable. The only solution looking into the future is INTERGRATED ZERO INPUT FARMING using no till arable. The beauty of this system is that it can be used on a large scale, and has been across the world, when up and running it returns high yields, high profits and requires no subsidies and produces chemically free nutrient dense foods, but the key component is livestock, as it has been for the last 10,000 yrs. As I said in my other post: It’s not what you eat it’s the way you produce it.

Plant Based News Moderator
Plant Based News Moderator
4 months ago
Reply to  Rowland Ross

Hi Rowland, we appreciate your input, but all of the problems you have listed can be solved with a plant-based diet. Killing off any of the 7 billion humans is clearly not an option, so why don’t we stop breeding and killing 70 billion land animals? We would need significantly less plants to feed the world this way, = less input. The act of being opposed to anything can not be a “fact”. Because of the facts, such as the intelligence and sentience of animals, and the massive detriment exploiting animals has on our planet, we hold that personal view.

Rowland Ross
Rowland Ross
4 months ago

If you took the time to read what I have written, researched it and worked it through to a conclusion, what you would end up with is a “Plant Based Diet” but it wouldn’t be “ Plant Only”.
If you want to eat plants you need fertile soil. Thanks to 100yrs of chemical farming we don’t have any left. Nearly all of the foods eaten today by both vegan and non vegans come at a horrendous cost to the environment: No soil microbes, fungal spores, worms, insects and no wildlife that depend on them for food. I am somewhat heartened by the fact that Regenerative Farming in all forms is now one the fastest growing movements in the world (now recognised by the IPCC as the only way forward). Many farmers world wide have simply become fed up of trashing their land.

Plant Based News Moderator
Plant Based News Moderator
4 months ago
Reply to  Rowland Ross

If you are a biocentrist, would you not choose the lifestyle that has the least impact on living beings all around? That lifestyle is plant-based.

Rowland Ross
Rowland Ross
4 months ago

As a Biocentrist I recognise all living organisms as occupying an equal place in the Biosphere which exists as a food chain and in which predation is the norm. The death of an organism increases it’s value to the system as a whole, since it provides food.
Since few of the foods I eat come from agriculture or the food industry I would suggest that my lifestyle has far less impact on living beings than any current plant based diet.
PS. All of the foods I eat are totally sustainable.
Correction to the above. This should read “Current Plant Only” not “Plant Based” The term plant based in my opinion is incorrectly used ie. Base = 50% plus.

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