Many people around the world are affected by poverty, hunger, and climate change. In an attempt to address these horrible problems, world leaders established the Sustainable Development Goals to be met by 2030. They build on last year’s Millennium Development Goals, with new objectives to reduce poverty and mitigate environmental problems in order to ensure sustainable development. Plant-based or vegan eating can play an important role in achieving these goals.
— Global Goals (@GlobalGoalsUN) February 18, 2016
Poverty and Undernutrition
Poverty is largely perpetrated by hunger and undernutrition, partly because of a low intake of calories and proteins in disadvantaged areas. The ready availability of more protein-rich plant-based foods such as beans and grains would help address this health issue.
More reliance on plant-based foods would also help people get enough nutrients. A deficiency of vitamin A, for instance, can lead to a poor immune system and early blindness in children. So eating dark leafy vegetables, which are rich in many nutrients, including vitamin A, would help improve the health of poor communities.
The promotion of vegan eating in developing countries is certainly not a simple task. Nations implementing the Sustainable Development Goals also need to improve food security by facilitating nutrition education, enabling access to affordable and quality vegetables and fruits in local markets, and supporting the local production of plant-based foods.
The benefits of such measures for developing countries are many. Plant-based foods are generally more affordable than meat, eggs, and dairy foods. Vegan foods are also the healthy choice, because they lead to lower rates of heart disease and other fatal maladies as well as to lower cholesterol levels. In developing countries, lifestyle diseases are on the rise and access to affordable health care can be very limited.
One way of addressing these issues is by promoting local traditions of plant-based eating, for instance in places such as India. Although Indian children currently experience the highest rate of undernutrition in the world, the country is rapidly increasing its reliance on animal-based foods. Improving food security in India and promoting its traditional plant-based foods can contribute to health and well-being, which would, in turn, create better conditions for communities to lift themselves out of poverty.
Climate change and environmental degradation are other central concerns that the Sustainable Development Goals aim to address. Generally, people in disadvantaged communities are the most affected by climate change—they experience the worst consequences and are less well prepared to adapt to them.
Farming animals for food is one of the leading causes of these environmental problems, which is why the United Nations Environment Programme recommends that people move away from using animals for food. It says that relying on animal-based products is unsustainable, especially in the face of the world’s population growth.
Promoting plant-based eating in developing countries can be a difficult task. There is an increase in the demand for animal-based foods in Asia, for example, and also for dairy foods in China and India. To take advantage of this demand, factory farms are establishing a strong presence in these countries.
This also means that decreasing the reliance on using animals for food and moving toward plant-based eating is an urgent issue. Factory farms are catastrophic for the local environment, too. The large quantities of manure that they produce often go untreated and then are used as crop fertilizers. They are also stored in water lagoons or disposed of in water sources. In many parts of the world, these practices cause serious health problems for people living near factory farms and are also responsible for creating “dead zones” in bodies of water, in which marine life completely dies out.
Because the Sustainable Development Goals include protecting water sources, addressing climate change, and protecting natural habitats, the impact of animal agriculture needs to be seriously considered by world leaders.
Overall, these goals have an enormous potential, if a plant-based lifestyle is promoted and adopted in developing countries and throughout the world. This would help slash poverty as well as alleviate hunger and undernutrition so that poor communities would be able to address their various development challenges. In addition, adopting a vegan lifestyle would help limit the impact of climate change, which is largely caused by factory farming and has a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged communities.
You Can Help Stop Climate Change!
The most powerful step that we can take as individuals to avert climate change is to stop eating meat, eggs, and dairy products and persuade others to do the same. Pledge to go vegan today!