UN urges global move to meat and dairy-free diet | Environment | guardian.co.uk

A global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change, a UN report said today.

As the global population surges towards a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050, western tastes for diets rich in meat and dairy products are unsustainable, says the report from United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) international panel of sustainable resource management.

It says: “Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”

Professor Edgar Hertwich, the lead author of the report, said: “Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as [burning] fossil fuels.”

The recommendation follows advice last year that a vegetarian diet was better for the planet from Lord Nicholas Stern, former adviser to the Labour government on the economics of climate change. Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has also urged people to observe one meat-free day a week to curb carbon emissions.

The panel of experts ranked products, resources, economic activities and transport according to their environmental impacts. Agriculture was on a par with fossil fuel consumption because both rise rapidly with increased economic growth, they said.

Ernst von Weizsaecker, an environmental scientist who co-chaired the panel, said: “Rising affluence is triggering a shift in diets towards meat and dairy products - livestock now consumes much of the world’s crops and by inference a great deal of freshwater, fertilisers and pesticides.”

Both energy and agriculture need to be “decoupled” from economic growth because environmental impacts rise roughly 80% with a doubling of income, the report found.

Achim Steiner, the UN under-secretary general and executive director of the UNEP, said: “Decoupling growth from environmental degradation is the number one challenge facing governments in a world of rising numbers of people, rising incomes, rising consumption demands and the persistent challenge of poverty alleviation.”

The panel, which drew on numerous studies including the Millennium ecosystem assessment, cites the following pressures on the environment as priorities for governments around the world: climate change, habitat change, wasteful use of nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilisers, over-exploitation of fisheries, forests and other resources, invasive species, unsafe drinking water and sanitation, lead exposure, urban air pollution and occupational exposure to particulate matter.

Agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use and 19% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, says the report, which has been launched to coincide with UN World Environment day on Saturday.

Last year the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation said that food production would have to increase globally by 70% by 2050 to feed the world’s surging population. The panel says that efficiency gains in agriculture will be overwhelmed by the expected population growth.

Prof Hertwich, who is also the director of the industrial ecology programme at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said that developing countries – where much of this population growth will take place – must not follow the western world’s pattern of increasing consumption: “Developing countries should not follow our model. But it’s up to us to develop the technologies in, say, renewable energy or irrigation methods.”

Guest post: a vegan guide to Boston!


So you find yourself in Boston, wandering past the vaguely Irish pubs and seafood restaurants, weaving through Red Sox fans and college students as your stomach cries out in hunger. What is a vegan to do? Fear not—Boston is full of wicked ah-some vegan noms.
Let’s start off with a kick-ass brunch option. The Otherside Café isn’t all-vegan (too busy being all-hipster), but it can convert almost anything you want into a startlingly huge and awesome veggie delight. There’s a vegan “diner breakfast,” tofu scrambles, and mimosas. Not in the mood for breakfast? 1) What’s wrong with you? And 2) never fear. Otherside has an amazing vegan chili nacho plate–hot, creamy, PG-13 territory. And then the standard wraps and sandwiches, etc. Jon’s Buffalo Tempeh sandwich is the winner here. Otherside isn’t really the place for tons of vegetables, but the fake meats and real beers are plentiful. You’ll feel almost manly until you remember that soy turns you gay.

Speaking of hipsters, let’s hop on our fixies down to Allston aka Brawlston aka Awe-ston aka I made all those names up and if you actually call it that, people will definitely laugh at you or peer with bored disdain over their ironic moustaches. Or they will laugh with you and accept you. Try it out. Anyway, for vegans, this is the place to be.

If you want something cheap and delicious and maybe need more brunchy options, hit up Allston Café, the artist formerly known as Herrell’s. The breakfast burrito with these nuggets of delight called “tofettes” is great for hungover days. Get the salsa inside and drench it in Tabasco! There are vegan pancakes, tons of vegan cream cheese choices, and vegan muffins of rotating flavors, like French toast–most topped in sugar. Then there are vegan cupcakes, which are basically the same thing as the muffins, but whatever, only one is socially acceptable to have for breakfast and I believe in norms as long as they are egg-and-dairy-free.

If you have a little more dough, then it’s time for pizza! (Get it? Dough? Pizza? See what I did there?)  Just down the street from Allston Café is Peace O’ Pie, once T.J. Scallywaggle’s. Now it’s run by the Boston Vegan Association, basically. That means their ingredients are no longer wins from dumpster dives, which is either a good or bad thing, depending. Regardless! They are an all-vegan pizza place with rotating specials, great toppings, calzones, and desserts. They are kind of pricey, but definitely worth it. They use Daiya and it melts like the real thing. Putting tempeh on your pizza makes it even cheesier, somehow. Probably magic.

And now my favorite place ever—Grasshopper. Right next door to Peace O’ Pie, this all vegan Asian heaven houses the most divine, omni-converting dish ever: The No Name. Gluten, deep-fried and covered in sauce. YES. There are tons of other good dishes too, but who cares. I go for this. Oh, and I guess the kale. Their mixed veggies comes with kale! OK and the spring rolls are great, too. And I guess a lot of people rave about the chicken fingers (tofu wrapped in dough and deep fried). But the truly majestic choice is the No Name. And you can have as much of it as you want if you go on buffet night, the third Sunday of every month. BVA meetings mean you have to plan expertly to have seating, especially if you roll with a huge crew of vegans like me, but it’s worth it: you can eat until you’re comatose for $10. Hooray!

So yeah, who needs clam chowdah?

[Thanks to longtime reader, part-time San Franciscan Katie Woods for this guide! Katie attends one of Boston’s many fine institutions of higher learning, where she pursues a BFA and apparently eats like royalty.]

A vegan guide to Boston! Now I simply must go there.