Skip to main content

Benefits of going vegan

The number of vegans is growing rapidly in the UK. So why are so many people choosing a vegan lifestyle? 

Meat and dairy is responsible for over half of all emissions associated with our food. The industry is also linked to deforestation and poor animal rights. In this article, we discuss some of the benefits of being vegan and point to some vegan brands. 

What is veganism?

Veganism means choosing a plant-based lifestyle and avoiding animal products – whether that’s in your food, clothing or cosmetics.

Most vegans won’t eat meat, fish, dairy or honey, won’t buy leather or suede products, and will avoid makeup, skincare and cleaning products that contain animal derived ingredients. 

Many vegans also avoid products that have been tested on animals. 

Benefits of a vegan lifestyle

Does a vegan diet reduce your carbon footprint?

Those eating a vegan diet have on average about half the carbon footprint from their food of meat eaters.

Switching from a meat to a vegan diet could save you about one tonne of carbon emissions every year – equivalent to driving about 2,500 miles.

So, why does going vegan or cutting down your meat and dairy save so much carbon? Animal farming has a high carbon footprint for a number of reasons.

Firstly, land is needed to keep animals and grow their feed. This land therefore cannot be left as forests, or other natural ecosystems that store carbon.

Secondly, cows and sheep in particular burp large amounts of methane – a greenhouse gas which in the short term actually causes far greater warming than CO2.

Of course, growing vegetables and alternative forms of protein can also create emissions. But meat and dairy are much less efficient. Like humans, animals have to eat. This means that not only does livestock have its own direct emissions attached, it has all the emissions associated with the production of its food.

Our article on the climate impacts of different diets has more information.

What are the environmental benefits of going vegan?

Meat and dairy is associated with many environmental issues, beyond its high carbon footprint. Going vegan is one way to address these.

For the last few decades, animal farming has been linked to devastating deforestation, particularly of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. Huge swathes of the rainforest have been cleared to make space for cattle farming or soya production – the vast majority of which is fed to animals around the world. To date, around 17% of the Amazon has been lost.

In 2022, academics found that if we reduced global beef consumption by 20 percent, it could halve deforestation.

Animal farms also produce large amounts of manure, which can pollute local areas, destroying natural habitats.

In the UK, local farms housing over 20 million chickens have polluted the River Wye. Over half of the river is facing an ecological crisis, according to campaigners, and has been called a “wildlife death trap”. Chicken manure runs off from farms into the river, increasing levels of phosphate. This causes ‘algal blooms’ – rapid growths of water-based plants, consuming all the oxygen in the river and killing off fish and other river animals.

Why veganism is better for animal welfare and animal rights

For some people, going vegan is an important step to recognising animals as living beings. Animal rights advocates argue that animals have a life of their own, and we don’t have the right to put them on our plate or turn them into a pair of shoes.

The animal farming industry is also notorious for its poor animal welfare. In the UK, around 70% of animals are reared on factory farms. This means that they are raised indoors in a confined space and in large numbers.

Animals can be subjected to painful mutilations. For example, in the UK animal welfare groups estimate that over 70% of pigs have their tails cut short, to stop other pigs biting them – which they do due to stress and lack of space.

Veganism and avoiding animal testing

White rabbit in cage

Many vegans also avoid products that are linked to animal testing. In the UK, finished cosmetics products cannot be tested on animals. However, many of the ingredients used in health and beauty and cleaning products do undergo animal testing. The products may also be sold by companies that are testing them on animals elsewhere, for example in China where animal testing is required by law.

Ethical Consumer rates all companies selling cosmetic and cleaning products on their animal testing policies. Just saying “we don’t test products on animals” isn’t adequate – companies should be checking to make sure suppliers haven’t tested the ingredients they buy from them on animals.

For this reason, we check whether a company has a policy which says it won’t use any ingredients that were tested on animals. We also expect big companies to have a Fixed Cut Off (FCO) date, which shows a clear commitment to avoiding animal-tested ingredients. You can read more about what FCOs are in our article on animal testing policies.

Animals farming and antibiotic resistance

Animal farming is also contributing to antibiotic resistance – a crisis that could kill 10 million people a year by 2050, more than die from cancer every year. The overuse and misuse of antibiotics is leading to the development of antibiotic resistant superbugs that do not respond to normal treatments. Scientists warn that in coming years common illnesses like Urinary Tract Infections could become a cause of death.

The majority of antibiotics used globally are given to animals. Antibiotics make animals grow faster. In many countries, they are used for this reason, rather than when an animal is actually sick. This practice has been banned in the UK and the EU, but imported meat may come from animals fed in this way.

How to find vegan brands

There are a growing number of vegan brands available in the UK. Below, we list a few of our favourites, but you’ll find many more in each of our guides.

Many well-known brands now also make vegan products. Most vegan food products are marked as vegan. You'll also find vegan ranges in supermarkets.

It can be a bit harder to tell with cosmetics and cleaning products, but we explain what to look out for in a couple of articles – see links below.

Vegan food brands

Vegan and non-dairy milk

Plamil was one of the first companies to produce soya milk in the 1960s. It also sources all its soya from in the EU, meaning that it isn’t linked to deforestation for soya plantation in the Amazon rainforest. Oato and ReRooted offer oat milk delivered to your door, in glass bottles which they collect and reuse.

We cover all types of plant milk in the vegan and non-dairy milk guide.

Vegan cheese

Mouse's Favourite, New Roots and Tyne Chease are all independent companies that scored highly in our vegan cheese guide.


Mr Organic and Lazy Day Foods are 100% vegan brands offering biscuits. Mr Organic is also totally palm oil free, and Lazy Day Foods doesn’t use palm oil for any of its biscuits (and where it does use it, sources it responsibly). Our biscuit guide has more information.

Other food guides

Check out some of our other food guides including our guides to meat-free alternatives and egg replacers, for more vegan brands.

Vegan cosmetics and cleaning brands


For a vegan shampoo brand made by a 100% vegan company, check out Faith in Nature, Friendly Soap, and many more in our guide.


Our shopping guides to soap, make-up, skincare, perfume & aftershave, and shower gel all also list fully vegan companies and brands.

Cleaning products

Greenscents and Bio-D are both certified as vegan and cruelty-free. They are Ethical Consumer’s Best Buy recommendations, and sell everything from dish soap to toilet cleaner. Check out all the cleaning product guides.