Veganism has been suggested by many as a potential solution to the increasing impact our modern lifestyles have on the planet around us. With a growing population, and growing pressure on land to provide the food and resources required, it is clear that we need to make a change. However, veganism might not be the cure-all to the sustainability challenge.

Although many point to the reduced number of hectares of land a vegan diet demands, a recent investigation comparing several different eating patterns concluded that diets incorporating some animal-source foods (especially milk and eggs) use less land than their vegan alternative. Global acceptance of a completely vegan diet would waste available land that could otherwise feed more people – not all diets exploit land types equally. There are other benefits to well-managed livestock grazing too, including improved rangeland biodiversity, carbon sequestering into the soil, and in the case of low- and middle- income economies, a valuable commodity for the poorest in society.

For these reasons, the challenges of our growing population and limited space should not persuade us to turn away from livestock. They should instead encourage us to pay greater attention to the sector, enabling it – through scientific advances and enlightened policymaking – to provide the greatest benefits for the world’s people at the least cost environmentally and socially.

Read the original opinion piece and response on the Guardian website.