Sometimes we can get demoralised and it can feel like it makes no difference what we do as individuals, there’s so many people and we’re just not having any impact. At times like this it can help to remember just how big a difference every vegan makes, every year, by not consuming animals products (on average).
Animal Lives Saved
The first and most obvious positive impact of being vegan is that a lot of animals are spared a lifetime of suffering and a horrific death. But how many animals are killed each year for every standard meat-eater?
Well, according to Animal Death Count’s very thorough analysis in 2011 - every American meat eater was responsible for the deaths of around 28 land animals, 26.5 of which were chickens. They were also responsible for the deaths of 43 fin-fish (regular fish, excluding shellfish) and 135 shellfish. So in total, in 2011 every meat eater was responsible for the deaths of 206 animals. The figures today are slightly different and estimates do vary a bit from source to source, but these figures are considered to be accurate and roughly reflective of the actual numbers.
So in effect this means that every year by being vegan you are saving over 200 (!!!) animals! That’s quite an achievement, especially when you consider how easy it it.
Greenhouse gas emissions saved
Before we get to the impact every individual vegan makes in terms of annual greenhouse gas emissions reductions, let’s just have a quick recap of just how much greenhouse gas is generated by the animal agriculture industry.
Animal agriculture produces a lot of greenhouse gases, between 56% and 58% of the emissions from food globally come from animal agriculture, despite providing only 37% of human protein intake and 18% of our calories (1).
Globally, if everyone was to switch to a fully vegan diet greenhouse gas emissions from food production would fall by 49 percent (1). Not only would it reduce emissions dramatically, but if everyone changed to a vegan diet the enormous amount of land now not being used for agriculture could remove approximately 8.1 billion tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere every year for the next 100 YEARS (1). That would mean emissions from food production are essentially 0.
Just a quick note, these figures are global - but Americans eat 3 TIMES the global average amount of meat, everyone changing to a vegan diet in American would have a much great impact, reducing emissions from food by between 61% and 73% (1).
Figuring out how much CO2 emissions are reduced every year by each individual vegan is quite complex - there are a lot of factors involved. But according to the documentary Cowspiracy, each vegan reduces emissions of greenhouses gases by around 20lb / day, which comes to about 7300lbs / year or 3300kg / year.
This is a big one. Water is an extremely precious resource which tends to be taken for granted in places where we have enough of it. But think for a minute about how dependent we all are on water, just a day or 2 without access to freshwater and we’ll die. And it’s not just us humans, all animals require access to fresh water to survive. The smart and efficient use of water really is something we all have a huge interest in.
Unfortunately, at the moment we don’t use water very wisely. Animal agriculture uses between 34 and 76 trillion gallons of water annually (2). It’s responsible for 80%-90% of US water consumption annually (3). Obviously water use is a huge issue with animal agriculture. Eating a vegan diet really is one of the best ways to conserve water.
According to The Vegan Calculator, each year every individual vegan saves about 1.5 million litres of water!
Summary of your impact
So just to make it clear, the numbers are, for every single vegan each year:
- Over 200 animals saved per year!
- Around 7300 lbs or 3300 kg of greenhouse gases saved per year
- Around 1.5 million litres of water saved per year
Your commitment is worth it, it’s making a difference, keep it up!
If you want to know more about what you save by being vegan check out The Vegan Calculator.
- Poore, J & Nemecek, T., “Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers”, Science (2018), 360 (6392) pp. 987-992
- "Summary of Estimated Water Use in the United States in 2005". United States Geological Service
- "How Important is Irrigation to U.S. Agriculture?" USDA: Economic Research Service. 12 October, 2016