It’s unclear where these facts about veganism are from

8 July 2019
What was claimed

Being vegan for a year saves 365 animals.

Our verdict

We haven’t seen the evidence for this. Estimates we’ve seen range between 37 and 200 animals a year.

What was claimed

Being vegan for a year saves 1,000 square metres of forest.

Our verdict

It is unclear where this figure comes from.

What was claimed

Being vegan for a year saves 3,320kg of CO2.

Our verdict

An academic study, which is cited as the evidence for this figure, shows the number is actually closer to half of this.

What was claimed

Being vegan for a year saves 6,670kg of grain.

Our verdict

It is unclear where this figure comes from.

A graphic which claims to show the benefits of going vegan for a year has been liked thousands of times on Instagram and shared on Facebook.

The post claims that being vegan for a year saves 365 animals, 1,000 square metres of forest, 3,320 kg of CO2, and 6,670 kg of grain. 

These figures have appeared together across the internet for years to promote a vegan diet. 

While there is plenty of evidence to show that a vegan diet reduces your consumption of the things in question, the specific figures provided by the graphic are poorly sourced. We have not seen the evidence to back up any of them. 

Ria Rehberg, the recently appointed CEO of Veganuary, which is listed as the source on the image, said she was not certain where the information came from but presumed it was from the Vegan Calculator website.

The Vegan Calculator aims to work out what impact a vegan or vegetarian diet has on your resource consumption. If you tell the calculator that you’ve been vegan for a year, it says that you have saved:

365 animals, 7,436 pounds of CO2 (3373 kg), 10,957 square feet of forest (1,018 square metres), and 16,436 pounds of grain (7455 kg). While these figures are not all exactly the same as those on the graphic, they’re roughly similar.

However, the accuracy of these figures becomes less certain when looking into their sourcing.

The calculator claims that a person who eats a vegan diet saves one animal life each day, but it’s unclear from the sources provided where that figure comes from. We’ve asked the Vegan Calculator for more information.

In any case, there is no single accepted figure, and other sources put it much lower than 365. The Vegan Society says being vegan for a year in Northern Europe saves 37 animals, and PETA has previously given the number as closer to 200. This is a number that Peta have used for a while and back in 2011, it was factchecked by US factchecking organisation Politifact. It made the point that these figures also included sea creatures and any other animals that died as part of dairy and meat production (beyond the cows, pigs, fish, ducks and chickens also included in the estimate.)

For CO2 emissions, the calculator references a study from 2014 that measured greenhouse gas emissions linked to a range of diets and caused by the “production, transport, storage, cooking, and wastage of food”. The paper concludes that switching from a high meat diet to a vegan one would reduce someone’s carbon footprint by the equivalent of 1,560 kgs of CO2 each year. This is roughly half the number cited on the graphic.

Another source is provided for CO2 emissions from meat production, but it’s unclear what statistics from the report the calculator is using.

The figure for forests appears to be sourced to an article in Scientific American. The only figure provided in the article is that the planet is losing 80,000 acres of tropical rainforest daily. There is no specific number for how much of that loss is down to land cleared for animal rearing, or how much could be saved through a vegan diet.

For grain, the statistic may come from the book “Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won't Work” cited by the calculator. None of these figures for the amount of grain saved by switching to a vegan diet appears in the book, but it does give a figure of 865 million tons of grain being used to feed livestock and fish globally in the year 2011 (around 780 billion kg). It is unclear how you would get from this figure to an estimate of either 6,670kg or 7,455kg per person; that would seem to imply there are just over 100 million meat eaters in the world.

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