Fact-Check

Environment


Our global food system is the primary driver of biodiversity loss.

True. According to data from the UN and other organizations, the curreent global food
system, based on the production, distribution, consumption, and waste management,
is the primary driver of biodiversity loss, namely the loss of forests, swamps, and other
biomes crucial to ecological balance.

Source:
https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/press-release/our-global-food-system-primary-driver-biodiversity-loss
https://op.europa.eu/webpub/eca/special-reports/biodiversity-13-2020/en/
https://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/1180463/icode/

Adopting a plant-based diet is one of the most effective individual ways to avoid the sixth mass extinction.

True. According to the Chatham House report, there are 3 possible solutions to minimize the glaring loss of biodiversity and the collapse of ecosystems:

1) Switch to a plant-based diet;
2) Restore biodiversity in degraded areas;
3) Grow food in a nature-friendly way.

Source:
https://www.chathamhouse.org/2021/02/food-system-impacts-biodiversity-loss


It takes more than 15,000 liters of water to produce 1 kg of beef.

True. It takes 15,400 liters of water to produce just 1 kilogram of beef. For mutton 8,763 litres, pork 5,988 litres and poultry 4,325 litres. Given the risks associated to severe drought, it is crucial to manage water resources wisely.

Sources:
https://acrobat.adobe.com/id/urn:aaid:sc:EU:b0fe55ca-e7f7-4511-b5ce-5b23c7deb711
https://www.pnas.org/doi/epdf/10.1073/pnas.2120584119

https://www.waterfootprint.org/resources/interactive-tools/product-gallery/


The soy that vegetarians eat is the main culprit for deforestation in the Amazon.

False. About 77% of the soybeans produced worldwide (87% in the European Union) are used to feed livestock animals. 4% is used in biofuels and industrial lubricants. Only 7% is directed at human consumption. In fact, the EU uses only 3% of its arable land to produce protein crops and imports more than 75% of its supply of plant proteins, mainly from Brazil, Argentina and the USA.

Sources:
https://ourworldindata.org/soy
https://www.greenpeace.org/static/planet4-eu-unit-stateless/2022/05/c91d5f17-092020-local-ecological-agriculture-protein-self-sufficiency.pdf
https://oeil.secure.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/summary.do?id=1530677&t=e&l=en


Meat and milk lobbies are blocking the development of plant-based alternatives.

True. The researchers concluded that the meat and milk lobbies exerted their political influence to keep the system unchanged and to obstruct the competition created by technological innovations. These obstacles to the expansion of alternative technologies are related to public policies that still massively fund the status quo, aggravating climate change and biodiversity loss.

Source:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2590332223003470


Meat is the food that contributes the most to the climate crisis.

True. Each kilogram (kg) of meat consumed adds an average of 99.5 kg of greenhouse gases (GHG) to the environment. According to an analysis by researchers from the University of Oxford’s Our World In Data project, beef consumption is 2.5 times – 250% – worse for the climate than the runner-up, mutton. Eating beef puts 4 times more pressure on the atmosphere than eating cheese. It is more than 7 times worse than farmed fish, 8 times worse than pork, and 10 times worse than eating poultry. It’s 21 times worse than eggs. When compared to fruits, vegetables, and legumes, the impacts of beef consumption are even worse. A study published by Science found that, on average, the production of one kilogram of beef contributes 22 times more to the climate crisis than the production of one kilogram of rice and 63 times more than the production of one kilogram of wheat. Several vegetables, fruits and nuts were 200 times more climate-efficient than beef.

Source:
https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.aaq0216v
https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/ghg-per-kg-poore
https://www.nature.com/articles/s43016-023-00795-w
https://www.oc.eco.br/producao-de-comida-responde-por-74-das-emissoes-do-brasil/



60% of all mammals on Earth are livestock.

True. Humans make up only 0.01% of all animal life on the planet, but they have already led to the extinction of about 83% of wild mammals. Of all mammals on Earth, 96% are humans and domestic animals (60% of which are cattle) and only 4% are wild mammals.

Sources:
https://www.pnas.org/doi/full/10.1073/pnas.1711842115
https://ourworldindata.org/wild-mammals-birds-biomass


If everyone starts eating only extensively produced meat, will we solve the problem of climate change?

False. If we were all to switch to a diet based on extensive livestock production, we would need to dry up all the rivers, cut down all the forests, raze all the cities, transform all the deserts, and even then we would still continue to import meat from South America and other places.

Source:
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-018-0138-5


If everyone consumed like the Portuguese, would we need three planets.

True. If every person on the planet lived like an average Portuguese person, humanity would require about 2.9 planets in resources to sustain its needs. Portugal is among the countries that exhaust the resources made available by the Earth earlier. This year, Portugal reached Earth Overshoot Day on May 7, just as it did in 2022.

Source:
https://overshoot.footprintnetwork.org/newsroom/country-overshoot-days/


The impact of urban and agricultural sprawl and consequent deforestation on the planet is four times greater than previously thought. But if we all adopt a plant-based diet, we reduce the land needed for agriculture from 4 to 1 billion hectares.

True. If everyone switched to a strict vegetarian diet, we would reduce global land use for agriculture by 75%. This massive reduction in agricultural land use would be possible due to the reduction in land used for grazing and a lower need of land for intensive cultivation and targeted livestock feed.

Source:
https://landchange.imk-ifu.kit.edu/news/global-land-use-change-four-times-greater-estimated
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-22702-2
https://ourworldindata.org/land-use-diets


The meat industry lobby blocked the recommendation to transition to plant-based eating in the latest IPCC report.

True. A recent leak from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released on 20 March 2023, showed a substantial change in the wording of the final report, driven by countries with strong influence from the meat and dairy industry, such as Brazil and Argentina, which have made efforts to exclude references to plant-based diets and the carbon footprint of meat (something evident in another leak in 2021 analysed by Greenpeace’s Unearthed). According to the leaked information, the authors of the IPCC report initially recommended a switch to plant-based diets, stating that these can reduce GHG emissions by up to 50% compared to the Western diet. The final report published changed this whole line by calling only for the adoption of healthy, balanced and sustainable diets that recognise nutritional needs, bypassing a direct mention of beef and dairy products and ignoring the impacts of these products on the environment.

Sources:
https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2021/10/21/leaked-climate-lobbying-ipcc-glasgow/
https://scientistrebellion.org/
https://scientistrebellion.org/about-us/leaked-ipcc-report/
https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1L_IXyVOeKetQbGXxTopQwhKrTIFr-usc
https://mronline.org/2022/04/27/how-the-corporate-interests-and-political-elites-watered-down-the-worlds-most-important-climate-report/
https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/syr/
https://wires.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/wcc.814
https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/syr/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_SYR_LongerReport.pdf


Fishing does not contribute to climate change.

False. Fishing is an energy-intensive activity that produces vast amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In a recent scientific study published in Marine Policy, it was found that fishing vessels released approximately 207 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere in 2016 alone. Therefore, eating fish could be worse for the climate than previously thought, according to a recent scientific study.

Previous research indicated that seafood has a smaller carbon footprint than other animal proteins, because fishing doesn’t require farmland or the care of livestock.

But a new study claims that catching fish using heavy nets that drag across the seabed – known as bottom trawling – emits about the same amount of CO2 globally as the aviation industry.

Source:
https://our.fish/publications/decarbonising-the-eu-fishing-fleet-lessons-from-todays-shipping-industry/#:~:text=Fishing%20is%20an%20energy%2Dintensive,et%20al.%2C%202019)
https://stopfossilfuelsubsidies.eu/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/OurFish-ClientEarth_Decarbonising-the-fleet_priorities_July22.pdf
https://europe.oceana.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/26/2023/01/A-PATHWAY-TO-DECARBONISE-THE-EU-FISHERIES-SECTOR-BY-2050-Digital-Version.pdf
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03371-z.epdf
https://www.co2everything.com/co2e-of/fish#:~:text=One%20serving%20(100g)%20of%20Fish.,or%206.8km%20of%20driving


 

Health


A plant-based diet results in a higher risk of cognitive decline.

False. False. Women who follow plant-based diets during mid-life (40 to 60 years of age) have
less probabilities of suffering memory loss and other cognitive declines in old age,
according to a clinical study that followed more than five thousand women for 30
years published on October 2023 in the Alzheimer’s & Dementia journal. The research,
led by scientists from the New York University School of Medicine, found that lifestyle
changes made by women during mid-life – by adopting diets with a high consumption
of plant-based foods that are rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium, and limits
the intake of saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar – has a positive impact in
maintaining an optimal subjective cognitive function after 60 years of age./span>

Fonte:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/mnfr.202100606
https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/alz.13468
https://nuonhealth.com.br/demencia-dieta-saudavel-entre-40-e-60-anos-previne-
declinio-cognitivo/



A strict vegetarian diet causes calcium deficiency.

False. There are numerous vegetable drinks fortified with calcium and numerous foods rich in this mineral, such as white beans, chia, broccoli, kale, oats, among others.

Sources:
https://alimentacaosaudavel.dgs.pt/nutriente/calcio/


The Vegan Diet is the least effective in preventing heart disease.

False. A study by the American Heart Association (AHA) concluded that a vegan diet significantly reduced systemic inflammation and improved lipid profiles in patients.

Source:
https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/JAHA.118.011367


Balanced plant-based diets help prevent chronic diseases


Meat consumption can contribute to the onset of cancer.

True. At the end of 2015, the World Health Organization, through its International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), classified red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans – based on limited evidence from epidemiological studies showing positive associations between eating red meat and developing colorectal cancer” and advised caution in the consumption of processed meat. In this study, which linked the impact of processed meat and red meat consumption to the risk of developing cancer, researchers also proved that processed meat (regardless of whether it is red or not) is indeed carcinogenic in humans. In other words, its consumption is an important risk factor in the development of colorectal cancer: for every 50g of processed meat eaten daily, the risk of developing colorectal cancer increases by 18%. On the other hand, the review, published in Science, found that high levels of meat consumption (not just processed meats) also have negative health consequences, leading to an increased risk of colorectal cancer and probably cardiovascular disease.

 Sources:
https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/cancer-carcinogenicity-of-the-consumption-of-red-meat-and-processed-meat https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.aam5324


Vegans have to take supplements of anything and everything.

False. It is recommended that those who follow a strictly vegetarian diet get a Vitamin B12 supplementation, which, as far as we know, does not exist naturally in plants and must be obtained, in the case of plant-based diets, through fortified foods or supplements. As explained in Sandra Gomes Silva’s guide, most of the “important” nutrients are available in foods of vegetable origin.

Source:
http://ovegetariano.pt/ebook/
https://www.avp.org.pt/melhorar-absorcao-nutrientes-alimentos-de-origem-vegetal/


Eating more plant protein may reduce the risk of chronic kidney disease.

True. A higher consumption of plant protein can lower the risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD), according to a study published by the American Journal of Kidney Diseases. The study tracked 117.809 participants for almost a decade to examine the effects of plant-based protein on CKD incidence. In total, the researchers found some 3.745 cases of CKD (3.2% of participants) among those who ate higher amounts of plant-based protein, which showed a lower rate of the disease. The finding builds on previous studies that suggest a link between a plant-based diet and better health outcomes.

Source:
https://www.ajkd.org/article/S0272-6386(23)00742-4/fulltext


Eating red meat linked to higher risk of type 2 diabetes

True. A new study by Harvard researchers suggests having just two servings of red meat per week increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. And the risk further increases with greater consumption, according to the study published in October 2023 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Source:
https://ajcn.nutrition.org/article/S0002-9165(23)66119-2/fulltext
https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/red-meat-consumption-associated-with-increased-type-2-diabetes-risk/


 

Animal welfare

 


Every day 900,000 cows are killed for human consumption.

True. 900,000 cows, 1.4 million goats, 1.7 million sheep, 3.8 million pigs, 11,8 million ducks, 202 million chickens and hundred of millions of fish get slaughtered for meat every day.
Fonte:
https://ourworldindata.org/how-many-animals-get-slaughtered-every-day

The meat and dairy lobby held back the review of animal welfare legislation promised to citizens by the European Commission

True. In 2021, among other goals for improving animal welfare, the European Union took a historic decision to gradually eliminate the use of cages forn rearing farm animals, including hens, broilers, pigs, calves, rabbits and quails. This measure, supported by 89% of European citizens, was a response to a petition that received more than one million signatures, showing public pressure for better conditions for farmed animals. However, what should have been a significant progress in terms of animal welfare ended up being blocked by the meat and dairy lobby.

Source:
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/oct/23/lobby-groups-fought-hard-and-dirty-against-eu-ban-on-caged-farm-animals
https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_23_4951
https://www.lighthousereports.com/investigation/animal-welfare-wrecked/
https://www.politico.eu/article/copa-cogeca-farmering-lobby-europe/


Any incident reported by undercover investigations, usually by NGOs, tends to be an isolated case, because the production of animals for consumption in the EU usually respects animal welfare, and there is very strong regulation and supervision on European territory.

False. The number of reported infringements and the geography of these infringements – across the EU – denote that the industrial production of animals for consumption constantly violates the EU’s current animal protection laws, which in turn have already been officially identified by the European entity EFSA as insufficient, vague, outdated and very often not complied with (from production to transportation and death).

Pigs are not very sentient nor intelligent animals.

False. Pigs are considered to be intelligent, sentient animals that are comparable to dogs in terms of cognitive abilities. They are able to learn tricks, recognize commands, and even solve simple problems.

Sources:
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-07300-6 https://www.wellbeingintlstudiesrepository.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=mammal
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10071-020-01410-2
https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/12/1/113


The fish we eat contributes to kill dolphins.

True. Fish that ends up on our plates often causes unseen victims. Often, alongside the desired species, many other animals are caught in the nets – the so-called bycatch. About 40% of the world’s fish is caught accidentally and is partly thrown back into the sea, dead or dying. Among the endangered species are several cetaceans, such as dolphins, but also birds, turtles and sharks.

Sources:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0308597X09000050
https://www.fishforward.eu/pt-pt/project/by-catch/
https://www.wwfca.org/?162142/Forty-percent-of-global-fisheries-catch-wasted-or-unmanaged—WWF
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0308597X09000050


Octopuses, crabs, and lobsters are sentient beings, and should not be cooked alive, as they are capable of feeling pain.

True. Octopuses, crustaceans and lobsters are capable of feeling pain and suffering, according to a study commissioned by the British government, which has added these animals to a list of protected sentient beings under a new bill on animal welfare. Fundamental to the inclusion of these animals in the category of sentient beings was the discovery that they have complex central nervous systems. The report used eight different criteria related to the animals’ neurological function and behavior to measure their sentience. They measured, for instance, learning ability, the presence of pain receptors, connections between pain receptors and certain parts of the brain, response to painkillers and anesthetics, and behaviors such as the balance between threat and opportunity for reward, or protection against injury or threats. The animals that met the most requirements were octopuses. The scientists found “very strong” evidence of sentience in octopuses, and “strong” evidence for most crab species. For the remaining animals in these groups, such as squid, cuttlefish, lobsters, etc., “substantial” evidence was found.

 Sources:
https://www.lse.ac.uk/News/News-Assets/PDFs/2021/Sentience-in-Cephalopod-Molluscs-and-Decapod-Crustaceans-Final-Report-November-2021.pdf


Chicken are unintelligent and incapable of social connections.

False. In fact, chicken have a personality of their own and exhibit complex patterns of interaction and a sense of numbers. Chicken also communicate in interesting ways: their repertoire includes various movements and gestures, as well as about 24 different sounds, often used to warn of danger. According to a recent study, this type of interaction requires animals to be aware of their own perspective and the perspective of others. They also have a great power of deduction, being able to anticipate each other’s movements. The study also points out that chicken feel fear, anticipation, empathy and anxiety and that these emotions influence the way they interact.

Sources:
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10071-016-1064-4


The European Union is the largest exporter of live animals in the world.

True. An analysis of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) data shows that the EU could be responsible for up to 80% of the commercial transport of live animals. Global data provided to the Guardian by FAO indicates that 1.8 billion live chicken, pigs, sheep, goats and cattle were transported across the border in 2019. The EU is estimated to account for more than three-quarters of this total. “A large part of the cross-border movement of live animals takes place in the EU,” said Anne Mottet, FAO’s head of livestock development.

Sources:
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/27/eu-revealed-to-be-worlds-biggest-live-animal-exporter


 

Social Issues


Vegetarianism in Portugal is a modern trend.

False. False. As far back as 1908, the physician Amílcar de Souza, expert in diets and nutrition,
talked of the advantages of excluing meat and fish from one’s diet to the burgeoisie of Porto. To reach more people, he launched the monthly magazine "O Vegetariano",
published between 1909 and 1935.

In 1911, the Vegetarian Society of Portugal was created in Porto, and the first Portuguese book of vegetarian recipes dates from 1916..

Sources:

https://noticias.up.pt/os-vegetarianos-utopicos-de-ha-100-anos-revelam-se-na-u-
porto/

https://expresso.pt/sociedade/2019-11-19-Salvo-pelos-fructos-a-historia-de-uma-
utopia-vegetariana-portuguesa-1

https://sigarra.up.pt/reitoria/pt/func_geral.formview?p_codigo=215533
https://mosca-servidor.xdi.uevora.pt/arquivo/?p=creators/creator&id=1037
https://spotify.link/IKGrpi0C5Cb


Portugal is the largest consumer of fish per capita in the European Union and one of the largest in the world.

True. The Portuguese continue to be the largest consumers of fish, per capita, in the EU, according to a report by the European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products (EUMOFA). In 2020, on average, each individual consumed 59.9 kg of fish, 2.5 times more than the EU average, representing an expenditure of €371, almost triple the EU-27 average of €133.

Sources:
https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/per-capita-meat-type
https://www.eumofa.eu/documents/20178/477018/EN_The+EU+fish+market_2021.pdf/27a6d912-a758-6065-c973-c1146ac93d30?t=1636964632989


Plant-based foods in Portugal represent a market of 64.7 million euros.

True. Sales data shows that consumer demand is growing, as plant-based food sales in euros increased by 20% between 2020 and 2022 to €64.7 million. Plant-based milk is the most developed category of plant-based products in Portugal and has seen steady growth between 2020 and 2022. Sales of plant-based meat in euros continue to increase, growing 85% between 2020 and 2022.

Sources:
https://gfieurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/Translated-Portugal-report.pdf
https://gfieurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/2020-2022-Portugal-retail-market-insights.pdf


We need to raise more animals to prevent more world hunger.

False. The livestock industry contributes to food insecurity through its impact on climate change. In addition, animal husbandry is inefficient when compared to growing plants to feed humans directly. In 2023, we fed and slaughtered more than 75 billion land animals every year. To feed the 8 billion humans on Earth, it takes 25 kilograms of cereals to produce just half a kilogram of beef – while crops such as soybeans and lentils produce, pound for pound, as much protein as beef. In addition, only a small fraction of the plant energy consumed by an animal is converted into edible protein. Most of the energy from crops intended for farmed animals is used to feed their own metabolism, and only a fraction of these cereals and other plants are turned into meat. Then there’s the issue of soil, which can produce between 2 to 20 times more plant foods than animal foods. We are essentially using twenty times the amount of land and crops, and hundreds of times the amount of water, as well as polluting our waterways and air and destroying rainforests, to raise animals that we will kill and eat.

Sources:
https://faunalytics.org/global-animal-slaughter-statistics-charts-2022-update/
https://awellfedworld.org/feed-ratios/


The populations most affected by climate change contribute the least to this scenario. Adopting a plant-based diet in richer countries can help minimize this scenario.

True. Climate change is more than an environmental crisis – it is a social crisis and requires us to address issues of inequality at various levels: between rich and poor countries. According to UNHCR, the average number of climate refugees forced to migrate every year due to environmental transformations that are brought about by climate change is around 20 million. Consuming fewer animal products in rich countries would help reduce polluting emissions from agricultural production by more than 60 percent, and improve the health of the global population.

Sources

https://www.nature.com/articles/s43016-021-00431-5
https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.unhcr.org/climate-change-and-disasters.html&sa=D&source=docs&ust=1697030389256131&usg=AOvVaw19aWDEngw-pM1QuNR3lVu6
https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/30797/EGR2019.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
https://wid.world/world/#lpfghg_p90p100_z/US;FR;DE;CN;ZA;GB;WO/2019/eu/k/p/yearly/l/false/1.6940000000000004/100/curve/false/country
https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1816020116


Many zoonotic diseases are a consequence of the way we produce, distribute and consume animal products.

True. After the explosion of Covid-19 in the world, the UN published a report that takes a closer look at our relationship with zoonotic diseases. Wildlife, and our increasing proximity to wildlife, is the most common source, but farmed animals are not just original sources, they can be vectors for transmission or link hosts, carrying infection from nature to humans. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of animals involved in historical zoonotic events or current zoonoses are domestic (they are farmed animals), which makes sense, since contact rates are high. Here are some of the diseases that have affected us due to our growing demand for meat. Bovine Tuberculosis, Q Fever, Mad Cow Disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, known as BSE), H5N1 Avian Influenza, Nipah Virus, SARS-CoV-2, H7N7, H1N1 – Swine Fever and MERS Epidemic. 

Sources:
https://www.unep.org/resources/report/preventing-future-zoonotic-disease-outbreaks-protecting-environment-animals-and
https://www.nature.com/articles/s43016-021-00285-x


The richest countries are the ones that consume the most meat. However, the phenomenon of status and power associated with the increased consumption of animal products that we have witnessed in the last century in Portugal, Europe and Western countries is taking place in other parts of the world.

True. Middle-income countries, especially China and others in East Asia, are seeing a strong increase. A recent UN analysis revealed a predicted increase in global meat consumption of 76% by mid-century, including a doubling of poultry consumption, a 69% increase in beef, and a 42% increase in pork. It remains to be seen how our planet can supply a population of 10 billion or more people with the amount of meat currently consumed in most high-income countries without substantial negative effects on the environment and especially on the most fragile populations.

Sources:
https://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/esa/Global_persepctives/world_ag_2030_50_2012_rev.pdf
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt201mq1r
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8262125/
https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/10/09/world-meat-consumption-data-gdp-diet-alternative-proteins/