Marty Bender and Stan Cox speak out about a topic not often considered: the environmental impact of the Atkins diet. Not surprisingly, many of the arguments are the same as the environmental arguments against meat consumption in general:
Let’s start with the Worldwatch Institute’s estimate that 1 billion of Earth’s inhabitants are overweight. Assume that on average they each eat 56 grams of animal protein a day. That is the average in Western countries, and most overweight people eat Western diets.
If all those people went on an Atkins-style diet, their requirement for animal protein would rise to about 100 grams. A billion dieters each eating an extra 44 grams could not easily be satisfied by giving them a bigger share of current animal protein production. As it is, humans worldwide average only 28 grams per day. Instead, by our calculations, the meat, dairy, poultry and seafood industries would have to increase output by 25 percent.
The next paragraph, though, is especially eye-opening:
The dieters would no longer get much of their protein from plants, so less cropland would be required for that. Still, the net result of their big switch to animal protein would require almost 250 million more acres for corn, soybeans and other feed grains. That’s because feeding grain to animals and then eating the meat, milk, eggs or farm-raised fish is much less efficient than eating plant products directly. The dieters could not expect to get more from the oceans: the global catch has fallen since the mid-1980s, from overfishing.
The environmental arguments for a plant-based diet are ones that I haven’t explored very frequently on the Veg Blog, but numbers like these are hard to ignore.
If you’re interested in more information about meat production’s affect on the environment, read through the wealth of material at The Vegan Blog: The (Eco)Logical Weblog. Richard hasn’t updated it since October, but there’s still loads of information available.