While there are many actions we can take on Earth Day (22 April) to help the environment – including recycling, using water sparingly, and helping to preserve forests – we must also acknowledge that we cannot call ourselves environmentalists while still eating meat.

If we wish to protect the Earth, we must stop supporting industries that raze forests, pollute land and waterways, waste water, and generate enormous amounts of greenhouse-gas emissions. We can shun all these industries in one fell swoop by going vegan.

University of Oxford researchers say that avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce our impact on the planet. It is far more effective than reducing flights or opting for an electric car, because it addresses pollution, resource use, and greenhouse-gas emissions. Of course, the emissions-reduction potential of vegan eating alone is significant: Oxford Martin School scientists have stated that a global move towards eating fruit and vegetables – and away from consuming meat and dairy – could reduce food-related emissions by two-thirds.

While small steps towards greener living – like shorter showers, energy-efficient light bulbs, and hybrid cars – can help, they don’t have anywhere near the impact of switching to compassionate vegan meals. Help the Earth going vegan this Earth Day.

Jennifer White, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals