Not so much a New Year’s resolution as a statement. Staff, Volunteers and Trustees at ITF are choosing a vegan diet this January as part of Veganuary. As an organisation whose main aim is to conserve, restore and sustainably manage forests globally, we’ve decided to put our money where our mouth is! Agriculture, and in particular animal rearing, is one of the main causes of deforestation. 30% of the Earth’s entire surface is used to graze and rear animals and 33% of global arable land is used to grow crops to feed animals, according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation.
As the global population continues to grow, the need for agricultural land is also increasing. Producing animal products for consumption requires huge amounts of land – not just for the animals themselves, but also to grow their feed. We’re trying a vegan diet this January because it has the lowest impact on the environment – be that biodiversity, water, tree cover or global warming. There would be no need for further deforestation if we all went vegan, according to this study published in Nature.
In fact, like our founder the environmentalist Richard St. Barbe Baker, many of the staff, trustees and volunteers at ITF are already vegetarian or vegan. He made the link between deforestation and food production early on. This exert from the first issue of the TREES journal, published in 1936, demonstrates his convictions:
“Too often in the past man has been wasteful in his harvesting of tree wealth and has even sacrificed great forests to agriculture, forgetting that the fertility of land wholly depended upon the presence of trees. Through his industries he is learning how dependent he is upon the presence of trees for climate and rainfall, soil protection and the sheltering of helpful birds, which control a thousand pests. But for the trees there would be no food, the world would be a desert and civilization would cease”, TREES journal No.1, 1936.
It is estimated that up to 80% of deforestation is linked to agricultural expansion, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s 2016 State of the World’s Forests report. Agriculture also contributes to the emission of huge quantities of greenhouse gases – and meat and dairy production are some of the highest – even more that of all the world’s road vehicles, trains, ships and aeroplanes combined. These are just a few of the environmental issues that have pushed us to try a vegan diet for the next month.
Talking in 1957, St. Barbe went on to explain the link between his diet and his life-long work to conserve and plant trees:
“I am convinced that the vegan way of life is the only sane way of life, and realising that the basic cause of tension is growing populations and diminishing food sources, for the past ten years I have devoted much of my time to studying the question of food production and the problems of large scale land reclamation by tree planting.”
It is possible for the human race to use forest resources in a sustainable way, and agriculture need not result in the clearing of ancient forests. In fact, many of the projects we support integrate tree planting into agricultural landscapes. Agroforestry – the integration and interaction of trees in agricultural practices – increases tree cover on land surrounding forests and provided economic, nutritional and environmental benefits to the farmer. We support community-based organisations to promote and train smallholder farmers in the use of trees, thus increasing tree cover and reducing their dependence and sometime over-exploitation of the natural forests.
So veganism is a natural fit for ITF and when our Chief Executive Andy asked us if we were up for the challenge of taking part in Veganuary, we said we’d give it a go! Although not all volunteers and trustees are taking the challenge, all staff have made a commitment! You can find out more about our reasoning and experiences throughout the month, when we’ll be publishing blogs from those taking part.
If you’d like to join us, let us know! You can still sign up on the Veganuary website! You will find lots of useful tips and recipes on the website. Restaurants supporting Veganuary with special menus and offers include Pret, All Bar One, Zizzi, Las Iguanas, Leon, Yo Sushi and Handmade Burger Co.
Photo: Francisco Daum.