Health impacts of a vegan diet

As with a non-vegan diet, with good planning and an understanding of what makes up a healthy, balanced vegan diet, we can get all the nutrients our bodies need from plant-based food.

Vegan runner taking part in race.

A vegan diet based on whole foods like fruit, vegetables, nuts, beans, and grains meets guidelines for healthy eating. Such a diet has a higher intake of fibre, which can decrease our risk of diseases such as bowel cancer. By avoiding foods that are high in saturated fat, such as red meat and cheese, cholesterol and blood pressure can be lowered. Research has also linked vegan diets with health benefits such as lower body mass index and rates of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

It’s becoming very apparent that a well-planned vegan diet can power top-level athletic performance. There is a growing list of awe-inspiring men and women who say succeeding at the highest level of their sport has been aided by eating a plant-based diet.

Impacts of industrial animal farming on public health

Pigs in an intensive pig farm

Intensive animal farming contributes to the emergence, mutation, and spread of zoonotic diseases. The public health impact of animal consumption and exploitation has never been clearer. Zoonotic diseases such as Covid-19, swine flu, avian flu, SARS, Ebola, and MERS, have all either caused or threatened to cause major pandemics, with millions of deaths.


Residents who live close to intensive farms, such as the countless concentrated animal feeding operations in the USA, suffer from severe health problems.

Resident who lives near intensive pig farm in the USA holding hankie over mouth and nose.

These farms employ the standard industry practice of spraying manure on to fields as a waste disposal system. The spray drifts onto local family homes every day and results in serious respiratory and skin infections.

Routine overuse of antibiotics in farmed animals, to reduce disease risk caused by the crowded, stressful environment, contributes to antibiotic resistance, which is a major threat to human health. 

Health impacts of industrial animal farming on workers

Working in intensive animal farming is a physically demanding job, often with long hours and low pay. Risks include injury from heavy machinery or animals, and poor air quality due to gases like ammonia.

Work in meat processing is tough and repetitive, with workers often placed on fast-moving production lines. Temperatures are very often low, with many workers required to perform the same specific task for extended periods of time on shifts that can last up to 12 hours. They are at risk of injury from apparatus or repetitive strain.

In addition to similar physical health risks, due to the traumatic nature of their work slaughterhouse workers suffer high rates of mental health issues, particularly PTSD, of drug and alcohol addiction, and of suicide.

These industries are dependent on migrant workers who are frequently exploited, for example being on zero-hour contracts, with no sick pay, unethical contracts, gruelling conditions, and paid less than UK workers doing the same job. There is a similar picture across Europe. Unions are concerned that workers often have little knowledge of their rights or are unable to protect them due to language barriers or because many are employed through an agency.

Global impact

Soy and grains grown around the world are fed to farmed animals in the UK. This contributes to food insecurity in other countries, which grow those ‘cash crops’ instead of food that could be eaten directly by humans. Growth of animal feeds can also violate land rights of indigenous people, in the Amazon for example.

What can you do?

  • A whole host of health and social justice benefits can be gained by adopting a healthy vegan diet. We have provided some helpful resources here.
  • Share this info with your friends and family. OneKind can support you with your transition to a vegan diet, but it’s fun to share recipes and meals with others.