Imagine a scenario in which everyone in the world woke up one morning and suddenly became vegan. Former meat lovers and cheese fiends baulked at their previous urges to consume animal products. There was a collective will to stop holding animals captive in farms and zoos. They decided to stop wearing products made from leather, wool and silk. No longer would it be fine to test all sorts of cosmetics and chemicals on non-human animals.
Hypothetical as this thought experiment is, it is essentially the goal of many vegans. That is, to put an end to animal suffering at the hands of humans. So, it begs the question: what would actually happen if everyone in the world went vegan?
Could Veganism Save the World?
It would be nice to think that mass veganism would instantaneously create a world filled with love and compassion. A world that is free of pollution and horror and that climate change would be reversed. But reality doesn’t work like that. There are numerous interconnected industries and economically interdependent sectors that rely in some part on animals. Is it possible, therefore, that everyone ceasing eating and using animal products at once might actually have many negative consequences?
In this article, we will look into our crystal ball and paint the picture of a wholly vegan world. We’ll assess the various implications – good and bad. We’ll look at the environmental consequences, the economic implications and some of the many practicalities. For instance, what would happen to the 70 billion land animals that are estimated to be farmed and killed for food each year?
The notion of the whole world suddenly going vegan is clearly hypothetical. And, frankly, it isn’t going to happen any time soon. As such, the approach for the article is to dip rather than delve into the various possibilities. It will give you a flavour of what might happen, rather than making robust predictions. What would definitely happen? Clearly, no one could know for sure. But here’s what we think could occur in a fully vegan world.
What If Everyone Went Vegan? 10 Questions to Consider
There are numerous implications that might arise if the world suddenly went vegan. Many of the factors would be intrinsically connected. There would be clear environmental and economic implications to consider, as well as significant changes to public health. All these factors are interlinked.
For example, improvements in public health would have positive economic benefits for governments. There would also be major social factors to consider. This could include the inevitable changes to farming (and the livelihoods it supports); as well as various cultural considerations (Christmas dinners, for instance… though there are many great vegan Christmas dinner options, of course!)
Here we’ll outline some of the key questions we’ll be addressing in this article. There is overlap between many of the questions, but each has a distinct set of components to consider.
- What would be the environmental implications of mass veganism? – With billions of cattle and other animals not slaughtered for meat, could it actually produce more greenhouse gases than before? And, how about water usage, habitat destruction and pollution from fertilisers and animal slurry?
- What would happen to all the farm animals? – Would some breeds go extinct? Would it be ethical for us to allow that to happen? Would animals be stopped from breeding and would that fit with vegan ideals? How could so many animals be housed humanely? Would it actually be less cruel to instigate a mass cull? For example, would it cause problems to release pigs into the wild when there are no natural predators? And, would meat farmers be compensated?
- What would be the human health implications? – People who understand the health reasons to go vegan would attest that a well-balanced vegan diet has many health benefits. But if everyone went vegan, what would that mean for the overall health of the world’s human population?
- What about medical testing on animals? – Could new drugs, for example an effective COVID-19 vaccine, or medicines and vaccines in general, be developed without animal testing?
- What would happen to pasture/grazing land? – Could it easily be repurposed for use to grow crops for human consumption and new forests to help tackle climate change? Given the land area required for animal husbandry, what would we do with all the unused areas?
- Would we have fewer diseases and pandemics in the future? – As we outline in our Veganism and COVID-19 article, many of the infectious diseases that affect humans originated in animals. Therefore, would mass veganism reduce the number of diseases humans contract from non-human animals?
- What cultural impacts might there be? – Whether vegans like it or not, meat plays a significant part in many cultures. From fish and chips on the seafront or roast turkey at Christmas, to the famously meat-heavy Aussie barbecues and South African braais, there are many occasions that would be very different if animal products were off the menu. But could people adapt to plant-based living?
- What would be the economic implications if everyone went vegan? – Given that capitalism finds a way to produce profits out of just about everything imaginable, it is possible that mass veganism might bolster rather than harm the world economy. This is especially the case when considered in respect of the potential environmental and health benefits of veganism sweeping the world. But on the flip side, could it lead to a massive economic crash as farmers, meat producers and burger joints are suddenly put out of business?
- Could mass veganism lead to a doomsday scenario or a new utopia of peace and compassion? – We’re not wishing to scare anyone here, but is it possible that everyone turning vegan overnight could actually lead to war, famine and the end of humanity as we know it? (Well, we don’t think so!). Conversely, there is a chance that an instant flip into veganism might just save the planet, stop all wars and create a utopian dream of a civilisation that is free of pain and suffering… or is there?
- How likely – or even possible – is it that everyone in the world will go vegan? – Okay, it’s not that likely, all things considered. But there could be some scenarios in which humans feel compelled to turn to a vegan diet; and we’ll outline some of them (however unlikely they seem).
1. What Would Be the Environmental Implications of Mass Veganism?
Research carried out by University of Oxford scientists predicted that food-related emissions would decrease by 70% if everyone went vegan by 2050. According to the Food Climate Research Network (FCRN) at the University of Oxford, food-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions account for “up to 30% of all human-caused GHG emissions”. As such, a 70% reduction in food-related emissions would (potentially) lead to a 21% decrease in overall GHG emissions.
Clearly, this is a significant amount of greenhouse gas that would therefore not be emitted into the atmosphere. Though it would not alone be able to stop the planet warming, it would be a major step in the right direction.
Reforestation & New Forests
One of the potential benefits of mass veganism would be that land currently used to house cattle could be repurposed. According to the Yale School of the Environment, “approximately 450,000 square kilometres of deforested Amazon in Brazil are now in cattle pasture”. For comparison, Spain is less than 500,000 square kilometres! It is feasible that this land could be reforested and the Amazon expanded to recreate some of its former glory.
If funded and managed properly, this could become a massive bonus in the battle to not only reduce carbon emissions, but to actually suck out some of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the new trees, roots and soil. Check out the Kiss The Ground documentary for more detailed information about this.
New forests could of course also be planted in other areas of the world that would previously have been used for cattle pasture. And, it wouldn’t all need to be forests either; there are many ecological benefits of rewilding nature to allow the growth of natural scrubland. This is detailed in Isabella Tree’s excellent book, Wilding.
The Return of Wildlife
Considering the notion of biodiversity and wildlife under the environmental umbrella, there are many potential benefits that could occur due to mass veganism. The perceived need to destroy an increasing amount of space to create room for cattle farming would be eradicated. Thus habitat destruction and related pressure on a range of flora and fauna would be greatly reduced.
In fairness, habitat destruction can also occur to create space for crops to produce things like palm oil and soy. As such, there would be a need to overhaul farming practices in general. But there would be lots of newly available space that would have been used for animal farming. Hence there would be plenty of room to grow all manner of crops around the world. However, the key fact with any discussion about the negative impact of farming any plant is that plants are almost always a more efficient method of feeding the world than animals (in terms of land and water usage, and emmissions).
It is not just on land where nature would thrive though, in the oceans too, biodiversity would return. Without mass fishing and all the environmental damage that does the seas would return to abundance. Industrial fishing causes many problems, from inadvertently catching threatened species or young specimens (bycatch) to the habitat destruction caused by dredging for crustaceans. Not to mention the problem of discarded nets and other fishing gear that causes “ghost fishing”; this is a situation in which aquatic animals are caught in nets and just left to die and rot.
Environmental Impact Verdict
It would appear that if the people of the world turned to veganism, there would be significant environmental benefits. Coupled with other measures that would likely materialise (see below) there appear to be very few environmental downsides. From reforestation to increased biodiversity to reduced greenhouse gas emissions, a vegan world would be a greener world.
Especially if the new vegan world undertook massive reforms in the way arable farming was undertaken. Incorporating nature instead of attempting to master it could result in truly sustainable farming practices. These could require fewer (or even no) pesticides and fertilisers. Especially if the world was educated in the ways of veganic growing techniques and principles.
2. What Would Happen to All the Farm Animals?
There are billions of animals slaughtered each year for food and other products for humans. According to the Vegan Calculator, 150 billion animals are slaughtered each year, which is an astounding number to comprehend; even if you can bare to watch the numbers flicking by on the “Animals Slaughtered Every Second” counter!
Let’s put the situation in context. Here are some species-specific figures about the number of land animals slaughtered per year for food. The figures are taken from those presented by faunalytics.org. These in turn based their data on those collated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
- Cows – 300 million were slaughtered for food in 2016
- Chicken – 66 billion chickens were slaughtered for food in 2016
- Pigs – 1.5 billion pigs were killed for food in 2016
- Sheep – 550 million sheep were killed for food in 2016
- Goats – 450 million goats were killed for food in 2016
When it comes to water-based animals, the numbers are vast; so vast that they are reported in millions of tonnes rather than the individual number of, for example, fish. According to the FAO’s The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020 report, the total global capture fisheries production was a record 96.4 million tonnes. According to the report, the most-caught fish (over seven million tonnes) is the anchoveta (Engraulis ringens), a member of the anchovy family. Interestingly, and perhaps encouragingly for pescetarians, the vast majority of that catch is used to produce fishmeal that is fed to other animals (less encouragingly for fish-eaters, that includes farmed fish).
Sea Life Allowed to Replenish
Now let us imagine what would happen if the slaughter suddenly stopped. When it comes to sea-based animals, the situation would be straightforward: simply let them be. Fish stocks would flourish; biodiversity would increase; habitats would be rejuvenated and the oceans would be teeming with life without having any discernible negative effects on humans.
In fact, ecotourism would gain a massive boost. The greater number of fish and other sea creatures would likely lead to a boom in dolphins, whales and sharks. As such, responsibly managed trips in boats, glass-bottomed boats and even submarines could become popular. A submarine aqua-safari to view marine life in the wild would appeal to many once aquariums and sea life centres are shut down.
Farm Animals: Culled or Cared For?
It would be a different story for land-based animals though. Billions of animals are ordinarily killed for meat or other products long before they would die of natural causes. Would farmers simply be paid to not kill their animals and let them live out their lives on the farms? Surely many farms would not be deemed suitable homes for animals to live out their lives.
For instance, the mass feeding stations in some parts of the United States offer conditions many would be unhappy about. As such, there would need to be thousands if not millions of animal sanctuaries built and staffed. But this is never likely to be sufficient to keep up with demand in the world vegan scenario. Inevitably, then, some animals would be culled by farmers who would be facing the loss of their livelihood.
Or might the animal just be released into the “wild” and left to their own devices? In some areas of the world, it is possible that some animals might survive and indeed thrive. Sheep, for instance, are rather hardy (as anyone who has driven through the North Yorkshire Moors in winter would testify). But the ability of farm animals to survive in any kind of wild setting would be seriously limited. Especially with so many animals having been selectively bred to maximise the amount of meat they produce.
Examples would include many broiler chickens (those raised for meat). They have such a swift growth rate that they are routinely slaughtered for their meat before they are even 50 days old! The chances of these bulky, weak-legged birds being able to evade a fox in the wild would be slim.
Would Sanctuaries Cope?
Of those animals that were housed in sanctuaries, it would seem likely that most would be sterilised to prevent breeding. This poses some serious ethical questions. With many breeds only occurring to produce meat, it might be decided that some breeds are allowed to go extinct. There would be many well-meaning people who would work or volunteer at sanctuaries. But the sheer number of animals that are currently captive on farms would be too great to manage. Difficult choices would certainly need to be taken.
Would, for instance, one final mass cull and subsequent sell-off of meat be desirable? It would raise funds for farmers who lost their income; and solve the problem of having to look after billions of animals until they die of natural causes. But there are perhaps not too many vegans who could stomach that choice. A pragmatist might suggest it could be more humane than some of the alternatives, however.
Would Zoos Shut Down?
In theory, yes. Zoos, aquariums, sea life centres, safari parks and other such places would indeed shut down. But what would be the implications for zoo-supported breeding programmes for endangered species? And how would children learn first-hand about animals they might never encounter in the wild?
Well-managed safaris on which people could view animals in their natural environments would no doubt flourish in a vegan world. With greater biodiversity and habitat renewal, it is likely there would be more wildlife in many areas of the world.
Could we see the return of giant herds of buffalo in the United States? And how about wild boar and even wolves and bears in the United Kingdom? A lot of the current pasture land could be turned into suitable habitats for a range of fauna and flora. The wildlife benefits would be there for humans to see and enjoy and the opportunities for vegan-compatible eco-tourism would be many.
Verdict: What to Do with the Animals
Ethically and practically, what to do with the billions of farm animals would be a very tricky problem to solve. In reality (in this hypothetical reality!), there would likely be a combination of different measures. Depending on what had brought about this global veganism, it seems almost certain that some animals would need to be culled.
This could potentially be sold off for meat to some of the non-vegans who weren’t yet on board. Others would be released into the wild, where it was deemed appropriate. While others, perhaps the lucky ones, would be cared for at sanctuaries for the rest of their lives.
3. What Would Be the Human Health Implications?
The research article we referenced earlier in relation to environmental factors is also relevant when it comes to health. It suggests that global mortality would reduce by up to 10% if everyone went vegan by 2050. In other words, mass adoption of veganism would result in “8.1 million deaths avoided and 129 million life-years saved”.
Of course, there is a flip side to that benefit. Those extra people living longer are going to need to eat, get around and power their homes. The increased environmental impact of that, as well as the pressure on land and water usage, could be vast. But technological advances in green energy production could mitigate a good proportion of that, whilst there would be the saved emissions due to the move away from animal farming.
There are some people who would suggest humans would not be able to get enough protein on a vegan diet. But as we detail in our vegan protein article, there are numerous plant-based sources of protein. This would especially be the case if soy was grown primarily for human consumption. It is currently overwhelmingly grown for animal feed. But people wouldn’t be short of vegan protein options. With legumes, tofu, seitan, tempeh, seeds, nuts, quinoa, nutritional yeast and spirulina being just some of the protein-rich vegan foods available.
There is a caveat though. Being vegan doesn’t necessarily mean healthy if someone simply eats vegan junk food. Pizza, ice cream, sweets and crisps are not going to be particularly good for you whether they are vegan or not. As such, education about well-balanced, vegetable-rich vegan diets would need to be disseminated. Explaining how people can get a good balance of vitamins and minerals from a plant-based diet would also be key, with some nutrients, including iron and zinc not always easy for vegans to obtain.
Health Implications: Verdict
A mass transition to veganism would likely result in improvements in many areas of health for many people around the world. Any possible dietary deficits could be tackled through education about obtaining a balanced plant-based diet. Producing large quantities of food for a growing population would be increasingly possible as more land that was previously used for animals could be utilised to grow vegetables, legumes and other nutritious (and from a farming perspective, efficient) foods.
4. What About Medical Testing on Animals?
Testing on animals does not sit with vegan ideals. However, there are certain circumstances where, as things stand, such testing might be a necessary evil. As we discuss in our articles on medicines and vaccines, it is currently necessary under British law for all new medicines and vaccines to be tested on animals before being tested on humans. While this can be an upsetting concept for many vegans, the simple fact of the matter is that without the development of new treatments and vaccines, many humans would suffer and potentially die.
For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic could seemingly never be halted without effective vaccines, and these could not be developed without the use of animals. And though on the face of it this flies in the face of what it means to be vegan, we would contest that it fits into the definition of veganism as outlined by the Vegan Society. It states that, “Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals…”
We would assert that testing on animals to produce life-saving medicines and vaccines would certainly fit into the “as far as is possible and practicable” clause in the definition. But what if all that changed? What if the world collectively decided that it was no longer acceptable to test anything on animals… ever?
Could Human Testing Replace Animal Testing?
There would be various alternatives to animal testing available if it was no longer legal or indeed desirable to test medicines on animals. These include the following:
Use Humans Instead
Humans are already used for the testing of medicines and vaccines of course, but not until such things have been proven to be safe with certain animals. If no animals were used, the bar might be lowered to allow human volunteers to be involved in tests of medicines that would pose a potentially higher risk.
In a vegan world, there might well be numerous volunteers willing to put themselves forward for such tests in place of non-human animals (though obviously there would have to be rigorous medical and legal safeguards in place).
Computer simulations and modelling techniques are already used to assess potential new medicines and this kind of “testing” could be stepped up in scope and frequency. With ever more data and computing power available, this type of research looks certain to improve in efficacy.
Cells that have been cultured from animal cells taken and stored before the world took the plunge into veganism could be used for some medical testing. While this might not satisfy the most ardent vegans, most would surely find this a good middle ground as no new animals would be harmed.
Fungus has been used to aid the vegan cause in many ways, from meat substitutes, such as Quorn to vegan leather. It might also be a useful ally when it comes to testing medicines in some circumstances.
Animal Testing: Verdict
There are certainly many alternatives to testing on animals when it comes to medicines and vaccines. Whether the testing demands would be able to be met by the alternative options looks questionable, however, especially in the case of a sudden shift away from animal testing.
Also, in the case of something like a pandemic, it is likely even many vegans would accept that animal testing in these circumstances could be justifiable under the “possible and practicable” section of the definition. At least until the other options are developed further through greater funding and research.
5. What Would Happen to Pasture/Grazing Land?
The amount of land required to produce 50g of red meat is approximately 100 times that to produce 100g of vegetables, according to The Economist. Even if the figures are significantly less than that, there would be a lot of newly available land in a fully vegan world, even allowing for population growth due to improved health.
There are many ways this land could be used. The most significant, as alluded to above, would be reforestation, the re-instigation of biodiverse habitats and processes of rewilding. Essentially, reintroducing nature to such areas. Clearly, a good proportion could be used to grow plants that could be used for food, clothing, energy production and other uses.
One type of land use that could certainly be increased in the UK would be orchards. It is estimated that 60% of orchards in England have disappeared since the 1950s, and that Devon – cider’s spiritual home – has seen a 90% decline in orchards.
With at least some former pasture land converted into biodiverse orchards, the UK could produce a glut of eating and cooking apples and plenty to produce good quality vegan cider. Furthermore, pears, plums, damsons and other such fruits could be grown and help reduce the amount of food we currently import from all corners of the globe.
What’s more, due to global warming, England and Wales are increasingly capable of growing grapes for wine. Much land could also be used to help that rapidly growing industry, producing even more great British vegan wine. Cheers!
Land Use Verdict
With so much land freed up in a vegan world, there is great scope to instigate many projects that have big benefits. These benefits would come in the form of environmental gains (e.g. reforestation) and also food security (converting land to orchards and to growing sustainable crops). Social and cultural benefits could also materialise as new swathes of accessible countryside could be opened up to the public with potential new ecotourism opportunities for former farmers.
6. Would We Have Fewer Diseases & Pandemics in the Future?
Writing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a pertinent question. As we discuss in detail in our Veganism & COVID-19 article, there have been many zoonotic diseases (those that transmit from non-human animals to humans) over the course of history. SARS and MERS and – as far as the vast majority of scientists are concerned – COVID-19 (aka SARS-CoV-2) all originated in non-human animals. As did swine flu and avian flu (as their names suggest!). Throw in Ebola, yellow fever and the plague, and there is no doubt that diseases that begin in other animals can have serious implications for humans.
It is likely that if we no longer farmed animals, there would be fewer diseases that would get the chance to be transmitted from non-human animals to humans. This would also be the case if we stopped encroaching into the habitats of potentially disease-harbouring animals in rainforests and so on. But there would still be interactions between humans and other animals so even in a vegan world, there would be opportunities for diseases to jump to our species… just far fewer of them.
In a world without animal farms, zoos and lots of human activity in otherwise undisturbed animal habitats, diseases would have far fewer opportunities to jump to humans from other animals. But it would not stop all opportunities. Someone could still eat some fruit in a jungle that had infected bat saliva on it, or someone on a forest trek could be bitten on the leg by an infected wild boar. In short though, a vegan world would almost certainly see the occurrence of fewer zoonotic diseases.
7. What Cultural Impacts Might There Be?
What would people do without a roast turkey at Christmas? Would people cope without milk chocolate Easter Eggs? And what about summer barbecues without the sizzling flesh of cows, pigs or sheep? Well, in the case of mass veganism, we think this would be one of the least pressing issues for the masses. The reason: in such a scenario there would be lots of vegan-friendly alternatives that were at least as tasty, healthier and, in some cases, basically indistinguishable from the animal-based product they replace.
The rise in lab-grown meat and vegan meat alternatives in general, for instance, mean that vegan barbecues can often smell and taste pretty similar to ones that includes animal meat. Things like the Impossible Burger, the Beyond Burger and a growing number of other meat alternatives would certainly satisfy a good number of people who previously feasted on dead animals. There are also some fantastic vegan Easter Eggs, many of which are bought by non-vegans who either don’t realise they are vegan friendly, or know they are and still love them.
As well as food’s cultural importance, we should also consider the necessary abolition of sports and other activities that involve animals. From horse and greyhound racing to hunting (in all its forms), these activities would not fit into a wholly vegan world.
The end of such activities would have significant cultural and economic implications… there’d be no more Grand National, for instance. But a mass transition to veganism would likely be accompanied by strong shifts in cultural norms and ideals (or people wouldn’t go vegan in the first place). So, in this supposed world, perhaps that leap wouldn’t be as dramatic as it might appear.
The New Carnist Movement?
Of course, a hypothetical scenario in which the world goes vegan is not realistic, at least not in a single, momentous event. And there are always likely to be those people who refuse to give up their “right to eat meat”. But with the numbers of vegans rising rapidly and meat consumption falling year on year, could we soon get to a position at which meat eaters are in the minority?
The term “carnism”, which was first used by psychologist Melanie Joy in 2001, refers to the concept that eating meat and wearing animal skin is “normal” behaviour. In a world in which vegans form the majority, it would be these carnists who would be seen as the ones with the counter-intuitive view. Such a scenario is suggested in Simon Amstell’s excellent mockumentary, Carnage.
Set in 2067, it shows a world in which veganism is normal and carnists are very much outcasts in society. In a scenario in which people feel their right to meat is being compromised, it is likely we would encounter groups of people who would feel compelled to assert their rights… but we’ll confront that scenario in more detail in the “doomsday” section!
There is no doubt that meat and animal products have had cultural significance in many areas of the world and in various religions. But that is not to say that these cultural norms cannot be challenged and overturned. It used to be deemed normal, for instance, to have a duel to the death with someone who offended you, for instance. Sheesh, that wouldn’t work too well these days… an hour on social media and there’d be all-out war!
The point is, in this hypothetical scenario, our current cultural traditions might be able to be adapted in a way that maintains many of the positive aspects while ridding them of the animal products. Clearly, not everyone would see it that way, of course.
8. What Would Be The Economic Implications If Everyone Went Vegan?
There are a lot of people who currently make their living from animals or animal products. For instance, according to the FAO, livestock supports the livelihoods of “at least 1.3 billion people worldwide,” which is clearly highly significant.
In addition, the FAO’s The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020 report states:
In 2018, an estimated 59.5 million people were engaged in the primary sector of fisheries and aquaculture. In total, about 20.5 million people were employed in aquaculture and 39.0 million in fisheries, a slight increase from 2016.
On top of that, there are many people employed in related industries, such as butchers, fishmongers and meatpacking and handling factories. Of course, as well as those involved with meat, there are countless people employed in relation to non-vegan textiles and other household goods. There are yet more people involved in animal-based sports, such as horse racing, as well as in circuses, zoos and aquariums. All told, any universal adoption of veganism would leave billions of people looking for new jobs.
There would need to be a universally accepted, well-planned economic package made available to people whose livelihoods would be taken away. This could pay an agreed income, similar to the furlough schemes that were introduced under the COVID-19 pandemic, which could stay in place until alternative employment began. This could also include retraining, for instance, helping meat and dairy farmers make the transition to veganic arable farming. Or for fisheries workers to be tour leaders in the new aqua-safari industries that would blossom as the seas replenish.
Whilst many jobs would be lost, so many others would be created, as we have already alluded to. Whilst the initial change would be difficult, in time, there is no reason that a vegan economy should be any smaller than a non-vegan one. Indeed, productivity and output may even increase …
A Healthier Workforce
If people lived longer but were also healthier for longer, there are economic benefits that could materialise. For instance, people might be able to delay retirement and offer more years of economic activity if fewer people need to leave work for health reasons. Also with potentially fewer sick days taken on account of chronic illnesses, overall economic productivity could well increase.
How Would People in Developing Countries Deal with Overnight Veganism?
With general hunger and protein deficiency often being problems in many areas of the world, would mass veganism help or hinder the situation? What other factors would be affected in the developing world?
According to the World Health Organisation, in 2014, there were 462 million adults underweight in the world and 144 million children are stunted (low height for age) due to malnutrition. Most of these cases occur in the developing world. Based on FAO figures, livestock farming contributes around 20% of the total agricultural output in developing countries compared to 40% in developed countries.
But a coordinated approach from the UN and other intergovernmental agencies could ensure that enough food was provided to everyone in the world. The hope of that is not given much credence by the current situation where millions of tons of food are wasted each year despite so many people in the world going hungry. However, overall, as we have said, a vegan world would be more efficient from a food-production point of view and that has to be a positive.
There is no doubt that a sudden shift to veganism around the world would have economic implications and could lead to something of an economic shock. But as the world makes the transition to a vegan-friendly economic model, it is possible the economics would stack up rather well.
With various new industries being supported by a world of vegans (such as eco-tourism and forestry courses), there would certainly be opportunities galore. A managed transition would be key, with subsidies, retraining and furlough-like interim payments necessary on a massive scale.
9. Could Mass Veganism Lead to a Doomsday Scenario or a New Utopia of Peace and Compassion?
There could be many unintended consequences that occur if the world went vegan overnight. And it is very possible there could be rather severe consequences, either good or bad…
The Doomsday Scenario
A lot of people in the world do not particularly like being told what to do or how to live their lives. This has been apparent during the coronavirus pandemic. Of course, we do not know why our hypothetical new vegan world order would have arisen but if laws were passed that compelled people to give up meat and animal products, well… things would kick off big time.
There would no doubt people would literally fight for their right to butcher and consume animals. And there would potentially be a good number of militant farmers who would not be willing to give up their traditional livelihoods. This could lead to such levels of animosity and confrontation in society that it would eventually break down as a coherent system. The gradual demise into an “us and them” culture could easily escalate from running street battles to acts of terrorism (on both sides) and eventually civil wars.
These civil wars could spill over borders and then mushroom into the Great Meat Wars of the 2040s! And before anyone has time to convene a UN peace conference, President Donald Trump III has had enough of all the talking and presses the big red button that his granddaddy always told him was the biggest and best and most amazing red button in the history of the whole wide world. Leaving just the rats and cockroaches to begin again on a world cleansed of humans. The New Age would be streamed live on Zuckbook (as Facebook was rebranded in 2033) from a webcam attached to the side of an Amazon warehouse that no one got around to switching off but which somehow survived; the footage of which would be used by aliens from a far-flung galaxy millennia later to create a documentary entitled: “How To Destroy Your Own Civilisation: A Cautionary Tale.” Seems plausible right?
The Vegan Utopia Model
On the flip side, imagine a world in which mass veganism led to the restoration of forests and green spaces, an end to hunger and enough natural resources to satisfy the world’s population, with plenty to spare. Could such a situation lead to a new harmony with nature that destresses the world to the point where the leaders – those people who would appeal to the masses in the new world – prioritise fairness and justice and, dare we say, kindness?
There would be a new global consensus based on mutual benefit and cooperation, and a commitment to collectively end the many injustices that have plagued the planet in relation to humans and non-human animals over the centuries. In short, the knock-on effect of a fully vegan world could be that compassion and empathy for others becomes the cornerstone around which societies are built.
The way the world has been recently, it is easy to suggest that Doomsday is much more likely than Utopia… despite the vast majority of the world’s population surely opting for peace over war if ever given the choice. But, in reality, there would likely be something in the middle of these two extremes. And though there would be plenty of positive benefits for societies across the globe, there would no doubt be plenty of people who would outline the negatives and attempt to use them to create discord and/or profit.
Also, the Doomsday Scenario appears far more likely to occur in a world without veganism in which humans continue to misuse resources, such as land and water. Without a big overhaul of farming practices in general, there are numerous environmental challenges ahead that could lead to social disintegration and conflict, not least the problems with soil degradation, but that’s another topic for another day.
10. How Likely – Or Even Possible – Is It That Everyone in the World Will Go Vegan?
Of course, when it comes down to it, a lot of the above article is just a hypothetical glimpse into what might occur. The truth of the matter is that meat, dairy and animal products in general are deeply ingrained into many cultures around the world. Therefore, it would take something truly earth-shattering to cause everyone to go vegan overnight.
It could be something literally earth-shattering (such as an asteroid strike that obliterates most of the world’s fauna); or something perhaps more realistic in light of 2020’s events (such as a pandemic that infects 90% of farmed animals). Short of that, there is little prospect of a sudden all-encompassing surge of veganism that sweeps through the world’s population.
Gradual Shift to Veganism
There is, however, evidence that suggests the number of vegans is growing in many parts of the world. Projections imply the numbers will continue to grow. Many surveys and studies have attempted to give figures on the number of vegans in the UK and indeed throughout the world. Whilst though there is no way to ascertain exact figures, there is little doubt the number of vegans is increasing.
There have been many documentaries about veganism and related causes in the last few years. Many of these have linked veganism to environmental and health issues. These docs have proved rather popular, especially on streaming services like Netflix. As such we anticipate many more films of this nature are likely to be created. These will in turn increase awareness among the general public about the potential benefits of going vegan. And hence increase the number of people who opt for a plant-based diet and vegan lifestyle.
Verdict: Is Mass Veganism Possible?
Barring a truly cataclysmic event, there isn’t going to be a situation in which the whole world goes vegan overnight. But current trends suggest the number of vegans will continue increasing. As such, at least some of the abovementioned benefits could be achieved. What that degree ends up being, of course, remains to be seen.
Conclusions: It Won’t Happen… But If It Did There Would Be Many Positives
Sadly, from a vegan perspective, the chances of the whole world going vegan anytime soon are remote. At best. But that is not to say there isn’t going to be a gradual shift in that direction. People are waking up to the potential benefits to the environment, people’s health and potentially the economy.
And that is even without focussing on the animals themselves, billions of whom are born into a (usually very short) life of captivity before being slaughtered for humans to eat or wear. It is open to debate what would actually happen if the world went vegan. But we think, on balance, the positives for humanity and the world would far outweigh the negatives.