A scientific study performed by researchers at Cranfield University found that may foods that are substituted for meat in a vegetarian diet do more actual damage to the environment than does the farming of animals for meat.
Cranfield University has three campuses: two in Bedfordshire (Cranfield and Silsoe) and one in Wiltshire (Shrivenham). The main campus is in Canfield, Bedfordshire.
The study, which was paid for by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a wildlife conservation and endangered species group (based out of Washington, D.C.), found that meat substitutes, like chickpeas, lentils, and soy, used in vegetarian (meat-free) diets do more harm to the overall environment of Earth than does diets where people consume meat.
The researchers say that because these vegetarian staples are imported into the United Kingdom from overseas, they do more harm to the general environment of Earth than does cows and lamb and other animals raised for food within the United Kingdom.
The February 12, 2010 Telegraph.co.uk article 'Becoming vegetarian 'can harm the environment'' states that 'An increase in vegetarianism could result in the collapse of British farming.'
The study concluded, as stated by the Telegraph, 'A switch from beef and milk to highly refined livestock product analogues such as tofu could actually increase the quantity of arable land needed to supply the UK."
Page two continues with the specific reasons why these U.K. researchers made this conclusion.
The veggie products, cited within the article, are grown outside of the United Kingdom and imported into the country. However, these lands outside of the U.K. are often made into farmland from existing forests.
The researchers found that the clearing of forested lands for farming is more destructive to the overall environment of the Earth than the farming of cows and lambs in the United Kingdom.
In addition, the protection of U.K. lands is far stricter (in laws and regulations) than in the foreign countries that produce these vegetarian products.
The Telegraph article adds, 'Meat substitutes were also found to be highly processed, often requiring large amounts of energy to produce. The study recognised that the environmental merits of vegetarianism depended largely on which types of foods were consumed as an alternative to meat.'
One of the authors of the study, German scientist Donal Murphy-Bokern (a self-employed agricultural and environmental scientist based in Germany), told the Telegraph: "For some people, tofu and other meat substitutes symbolise environmental friendliness but they are not necessarily the badge of merit people claim.'
Murphy-Bokern added, "Simply eating more bread, pasta and potatoes instead of meat is more environmentally friendly."
Page three concludes with some disagreements with their conclusion.
Others disagree with the conclusion of the study.
For instance, a spokesperson for the Vegetarian Society, headquartered in Cheshire, England, made a comment in the Telegraph article, as did a climate change economist.
Please read the Telegraph.co.uk article 'Becoming vegetarian 'can harm the environment'' (mentioned earlier) in more detail to find out what these people had to say about whether vegetarian diets or meat-eating diets do more harm to Earth.