According to a recent study published in the Journal of Contemporary Buddhism, Buddhists in China who have adopted vegetarian diets are offsetting almost 40 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emission each year. Professor Ampera A. Tseng, a researcher from Arizona State University (ASU), revealed the findings about the environmental benefits of vegetarian diets after investigating the impact on greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs) in China.
“The results indicate that Chinese Buddhists with vegetarian diets account for the equivalent GHGE reduction of 39.68 million metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent, which is a sizable amount and is equal to 7.2 and 9.2 per cent of the GHGEs from [the] United Kingdom and France in 2012, respectively,” Tseng noted in the introduction to his research paper. (Taylor & Francis Online)
A professor in ASU’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering since 1996, Prof. Tseng was previously a professor of mechanical engineering at Drexel University in Pensylvania for more than 10 years. He has conducted research in various countries, including China, the Czech Republic, Japan, and Taiwan, and has published more than 200 technical papers.
“In modern times, the vegetarian practice[s] of Chinese Buddhism should attract more Buddhists or lay people to follow, if the additional environmental and health benefits of vegetarianism could be emphasised.” Tseng stated. (Taylor & Francis Online)
While the broad variety of delicious cuisines originating in China are well known throughout the world, according to a report by Australia’s ABC News, meat consumption has risen rapidly in line with the country’s economic growth. But Buddhist practitioners represent a growing segment of Chinese society that is keen to encourage vegetarianism. As a result there are an increasing number of vegetarian restaurants in many cities—some of which are inspired by the spirit of Buddhism, while others are simply promoting a meat-free lifestyle.
An estimated 50 million Chinese are believed to be vegetarian—just under 4 per cent of the country’s total population of 1.4 billion. Zhang Xiuyan, 67, who is unable to eat meat for health reasons, is well accustomed to the difficulty of finding restaurants in China that understand the need for meat-free dishes. Public awareness of the requirements of vegetarians is long overdue, she emphasized.
Professor Ampere A. Tseng. From www.ciac.ac.cn
“With more people becoming vegetarians, restaurants are making changes,” said Zhang. “They have to stay in business by catering to the increasing number of non-meat eaters. So these days when I go out to restaurants, there are still some problems, but it's not anywhere as bad as it used to be.” (ABC News)
Indeed, vegetarian diets are becoming increasingly popular around the world. The American Dietetic Association holds the position that “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.” (NCBI)
In Prof. Tseng’s view, by raising awareness of the environmental benefits of vegetarian diet, “the resultant impact for the equivalent reduction of GHGEs could be even larger and the human-induced global warming problem could be further alleviated.”
Buddhist vegetarians in China reduce CO2 by one-tenth the total emissions of France, study finds (Lion’s Roar)
Reduction of Greenhouse-Gas Emissions by Chinese Buddhists with Vegetarian Diets: A Quantitative Assessment (Taylor & Francis Online)
Ampere A. Tseng (Arizona State University)
The difficulties of being a vegetarian in China (ABC News)
Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets (NCBI)