“If you want to save the world, veganism isn’t the answer”

The answer to saving the world is not veganism

The vegan diet has probably never been more popular than it is today. In a recent The Guardian article, farmer and author Isabella Tree discusses the effect of influential documentaries such as What the Health and Cowspiracy. These documentaries have thrown a spotlight on the meat and dairy industries, and convinced many people that cutting meat and dairy out of their diet equals a big favor to the planet and the environment.

However, what these documentaries fail to portray are the environmental consequences of the vegan diet. So, what exactly happens to our environment when switching entirely to plant-based foods?

If more people continue to turn to veganism, there will obviously be a need for more plants and less meat. This may lead to soil degradation, and soil loss is a major issue facing the world today, as Isabella Tree explains:

Our ecology evolved with large herbivores – with free-roaming herds of aurochs (the ancestral cow), tarpan (the original horse), elk, bear, bison, red deer, roe deer, wild boar and millions of beavers. They are species whose interactions with the environment sustain and promote life. Using herbivores as part of the farming cycle can go a long way towards making agriculture sustainable.

Somewhere along the way in many media storms, we have forgotten what we actually already know. In order to grow nutritious vegetables, the soil where they grow needs to be nutrient rich, and today, most are not.

The solution that Isabella Tree suggests? Back to basics. We should be encouraging sustainable meat and dairy production based on traditional rotational systems, permanent pasture and conservation grazing. We need to restore our soils by letting animals graze the earth. The way they graze, puddle and trample stimulates vegetation in different ways, creating habitats for small mammals and birds. When we don’t feed the animals antibiotics and other drugs, their dung feeds the soil ecosystem – a vital process of ecosystem restoration where nutrients and structure are returned to the soil.

The Guardian: If you want to save the world, veganism isn’t the answer


‘Eat less meat’ fails to recognize that all meat is not created equal

‘What the Health’ review: health claims backed by no solid evidence

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Where does the fear of meat come from originally? Learn more in our interview with Nina Teicholz:

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Top comments

  1. D
    Total garbage when it comes to an article and definitely smells of government propaganda as there are no negative effects from being vegan. It's the perfect lifestyle and not diet, as it's not a diet, for saving people, animal and environment.
    Read more →
  2. Simon Phillipson
    We will take the land we are using to grow animal feed. Less animals equals less gmo corn for feed. Means we use that land to grow food for humans. Plus we gain back the land for grazing animals. What a ridiculous argument.
    Read more →
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All comments

  1. 2 comments removed
  2. D
    I would encourage you to get smart and stop eating up all the propaganda it there it's sad and dishonorable. This is garbage and propaganda and it has no place in this world as all factual evidence points against it. This is nothing more than an article from a sellout looking for attention
  3. 1 comment removed
  4. Timothy S. Kreighbauum
    I am not even a vegan and didn't even get passed the lone degregrration of our soil to know this is another push of our government trying to push us into their keeping us into the health care system. What about all the soil being used to grow all of this HIM field corn to feed all the pigs and cows?
  5. 2 comments removed
  6. Timothy S. Kreighbauum
    Sorry GMO field corn.
  7. Fabrizio Valerii
    The fact that you published this article which hasn't any scientific fact to back it up, makes you lose all credibility.
    It looks written by a 12 years old. How would be viable the solution proposed for a population of over 7 billion people, from a logistical point of view? How wide should be the area for the "grazing", does the author even know that the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest is due to animal agriculture, or that over 50% of greenhouse emissions are produced from the meat industry? The cereals that go into feeding the cattle in the US in a year could feed a population of 800 million persons. And the energy, water used for the production of a kg of meat?
    The site is called diet doctor and the article does not even consider the health benefits of a vegan diet versus an animal based one. I suggest you check the latest medical reserach on the topic
    Even as propaganda, it comes out as being very poor quality. ..
  8. Timothy S. Kreighbauum
    I am not even a vegan and didn't even get passed the lIne degregrration of our soil to know this is another push of our government trying to push us into their keeping us into the health care system. What about all the soil being used to grow all of this GMO field corn to feed all the pigs and cows?
  9. 4 comments removed
  10. Artem Nikulkov
    Who says ruminants or "aurochs" or "tarpans" have to go or that they would stop grazing if more people embraced plant based diets? If anything, the animals' lifespans would increase for them to do their job of fertilizing the soil and serving their God-given purpose 100%.
  11. Velvet
    I see the article really irritated some vegans. And some of them don't even comprehend what they read - the article doesn't promote CAFOs. And they clearly don't know Allan Savoury's work. As well as dr Ballerstedt's. There are probably a few other names of scientists that could explain what happens when you farm too much, too.
  12. Yuriy
    Not buthurt but simple facts: The animals are factory farmed for many a reasons, some being economics, and large pasture requirements to cover meat demand. Agricultural production in the US to feed the vast herds of animals is magnitudes larger than what is used to for feeding people (given a lot of food is also imported either way).


    If every animal were allowed to graze the way Allan Savoury finds, with current meat consumption habits, we would have to relocate out cities into the oceans (not likely but you get the point).
    Only three options: keep up current factory farming or cut down significantly on your beef jerky and eat humanely grazed, or just stop eating meat and leave a future for our kids.

  13. 1 comment removed
  14. Velvet
    Yuriy, if growing GM crops like soy or corn was abandoned , there would be enough room for all the animals to graze freely. Not to mention that this planet would greatly contribute from stopping using glyphosate.
  15. Linda
    Do any of you realize 100% grass-fed cattle do not eat grains. Most cattle graze land unsuitable for crops. Properly managed rotationly grazed cattle sequester more carbon than forests. I finish my cattle on all grass. The land they graze is not suited for crops and there are trees in their field unlike cropland.
  16. 4 comments removed
  17. Ruth Huyler
    I am vegan because of the horrific treatment of animals raised for food. I don’t understand why anyone who has the knowledge of what goes on could continue to eat meat, poultry, fish and dairy. My conscience is my guide...and for that reason I AM VEGAN FOR LIFE! And ever so happy with my decision. 🍃💚🌱
    Replies: #85, #91
  18. Taffy
    What a crappy circular argument. They want to talk about land use, let's talk about why we use the majority of previously agricultural land for factory farming and to grow corn to feed these said animals, instead of growing fresh food to feed the thousands of hungy Americans, let alone those in other nations literally starving to death. All so the masses can eat meat, which they have been brainwashed into thinking they need to lead a healthy life.
  19. 2 comments removed
  20. Peter Biörck Team Diet Doctor
    I had to remove several comments to this article because of bad language.

    We encourage discussions, positive and negative feedback. But please don't use insults in your comments. Such comments will be removed.

    Reply: #92
  21. Martin
    It is amazing how many vegans pop up here neglecting by 100 % all information given on this site. It is so simple: almost raw chicken or beef liver is the most nutritious food we can have when our partner creatures are being freeland-kept or state of the art grass-fed with managed rotational grazing. In addition eggs plus all non starchy vegetables and bone broth. Then you lead the healthiest way ever possible. So, Alan Savory and Joel Salatin are the most visionary and well informed proponents of the right way.
  22. Niels
    I live surrounded by agroforestry sites, been working with it for a while myself. Animals are NOT needed to improve the soil. The problem of topsoil loss comes from industrial agriculture, switching to agroforestry can improve soil while augmenting production.

    No doubt having free range animals is an improvement over industrial farming but it's only the best solution if you have to choose between those two options. If you add permaculture and agroforestry into the mix the outcome will be completely different. Animals will always be less resource efficient than growing crops in a more natural way.

    As for health benefits, I took out meat, dairy, eggs from my diet because of health issues almost a year ago. Weight improved, cholesterol improved, inflammation disappeared, etc etc if you take some vitamin B12 supplement and eat balanced there is no need whatsoever for eating animal products. (Still visit zoos, use leather, eat honey, have pets and so on so I hardly qualify as a vegan in case someone was wondering if I'm some animal rights activist)

  23. 3 comments removed
  24. Deserttrek
    Not a vegan, do what you like.
    I do grow my own veggies and live in an area known for veggies year round. Never have I seen a plant want to be dug up and eaten. Plants are as a live as any animal and maybe more determined to live. Ever see plants growing through cracks in concrete? East plants you are killing.
  25. Wes
    The vegan rarely bases their diet on a health concerns. it’s not a nutritional program so much as a moral belief system (religion) They see the killing of animals as the equivalent to doing the same to people. Personally think a high percentage of them don’t even like people and it upsets them if you eat a rabbit than person they don’t know dies. They think they are saving lives by Not eating animals. They honestly don’t give a damn about facts. With your typical vegan, first comes their opinion, they will not kill animals. Then comes carfully selected facts from any origin, if it agrees with them. All while intentionally disregarding anything that contradicts their faith. Of course the faith of veganism replaced Satan with agribusiness and meat eating government conspiracies.
  26. Karen
    Okay, let the animals graze as they like. But killing them doesn’t make the soil better. Mass raising them in tight spots and putting chemicals on their feed and antibiotics in the animals so they appear healthy isn’t helping the soil either.
  27. Htebazilep
    Having lived an LCHF lifestyle for several years now, and feeling so much healthier and happier for it, all I say is this: if you choose to be vegan, that is your choice, but don't insist that you are right and I am wrong. LCHF is my choice. I'm not trying to push my choice onto you so please pay me the same courtesy.
    Incidentally, I have been married to a farmer for 40 years and agree entirely with the article.
  28. Jill
    I think and believe that everyone has a right to live life the way they want so long as it doesn't harm others. We need to be careful when criticizing the way a person chooses to live as criticism when poorly given can also be harmful rather than helpful. The simple truth is once upon a time the world, the land, our people, our environment, our families and our society were physically healthier. The only thing that has changed is our ability to mass produce, to mass farm. The industrial revolution happened to both farming of animals and farming of crops. It is this mass production that is killing us!! The article is simply highlighting that getting back to a more "organic" way is healthier whether you are vegan or not. Mass production is harmful - doesn't matter if its animal farming, crop farming or even just mass producing houses its the industrialization that is harming us and our world. How about we just focus on stopping that, the need to mass produce to extinction, and eat the way we want so long as the food is unprocessed, sustainable, ethically farmed, and whole.
    Reply: #96
  29. Danielle
    Great that this is being acknowledged! Just reading the book Vegetarian Myth which also highlights the detrimental effects of the vegan and vegetarian lifestyle, which clearly only aims to save some animals, while killing others indirectly with the grain production and by not relying on local food sources.
  30. Una
    I am all for compassionate farming but on a practical level there is also the social side of eating, particularly abroad. I do not want to be eating alone very night of the week but would probably do so and also never be asked out by my friendas who could not cope with veganism. I live on my own as it is and not young as well as on a limited pension income, and I consider my life and well-being to be as important as an animal's - bit I have to stay well.
  31. Una
    Thank you, Peter. I don't like aggressive posts worsened by bad language that is often people I don't even know. Thank.you.
  32. Delaney
    I'm all for eating anything that tastes good--meat and veggies included. I do, however, know a staunch vegan. Her arguments are cloudy, at best; but what I find amusing is that, in her quest to be health-conscious, she's gained about the same weight I've lost on LCHF eating...only she's gained it about twice as quickly. What's worse, she's not even 20 and I'm 36. And I've REDUCED health-related issues. Hmm.
  33. Sonya
    I'm all for animal liberation. However vegans need to realise that they do eat animals. Through the blood and bone fertiliser that is fed to vegetables and fruit.
  34. The Goosies
    The idea that animals are somehow bad for the planet is downright silly. I have no idea how the earth survived the millions of years with huge big dinosaurs roaming around in their millions.

    There is one animal that has become too numerous and is in fact bad for the planet - humankind. Many industrial farming practices are also bad for the environment, like antibiotics, modified organisms, pesticides & herbicides etc. So don't get me wrong - I personally don't care what kind of diet anyone wants to follow.

    But claiming that animals are bad for the environment is forgetting many things, including how many seeds / plants only propagate in the dung of the animals or droppings of birds who eat the fruit for instance, or the fuel consumption of our big hulking 4x4 SUVs, Trucks or other Fossil Fuel motivated transport.

    Here's Alan Savoury's brilliant insight on how herbivores benefit our planet:

    And here's a story about the benefits of re-introducing Wolves in the Yellowstone Park:

  35. Debra
    Jill, I love your comment. What ever way you choose to live your life is your choice - vegan, keto or carnivore, as long as we can do it in a more organic way and Without hurting anyone!!! The extremists really need to be treated with kid gloves because obviously they have their blinders on when reading articles for or against their way of life. I love this site because I have the freedom to read the information, absorb the information and also to choose to not consider the information as part of my chosen way of life. Thank you Diet Doctor!! Love the articles!
  36. Leesa
    Makes me laugh that so many vegans follow a website that promotes healthy meat, fish, butter, eggs etc to be consumed. The proof is so many people getting healthy and off pharmaceutical drugs. People will argue this forever 😁 I know for me, it's the best thing I ever did in my life! LCHF all the way, when followed properly. 👍 Thank you Diet Doctor for this wonderful website
  37. 1 comment removed
  38. MM
    Soil degradation is a problem how exactly? By having animals run free, they protect soil from desertification.
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