25/03/2016 10:39 GMT | Updated 24/03/2017 05:12 GMT

Eating Meat Is Not Cool - But the Moves We Are Making Toward Plant-Based Living Are Certainly Hotting Up

It's no surprise for most of us to be told that what we eat hugely influences the general quality of our health. There is also little shock factor in the revelations that the way we live has an impact on our environment - whether it be local, national or global.

But, having been in the animal welfare campaigning world for most of my adult life (I turned vegetarian at the age of 15 and founded the vegan charity Viva! 20 years ago), it is incredibly heartening to see that the connections between these, pretty complex, choices are finally being taken seriously in the mainstream.

For a long time trying to make these points to a mass audience was hard - people turned away, often because it was difficult for them to see what 'the power of one' could really achieve.

The question 'what difference could just I make?' is one I have heard many times over, as people have struggled to join the dots on how their own behaviour could potentially create problems on the other side of the world.

However, times are changing. The power of one is turning into an international movement - a collective of people who realise that their own choices on a day-to-day level carry great responsibility for humans, animals - the entire planet - now and in the future.

Proof that these big, important issues really are being grappled with 'out in the open', as it were, can be found in a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that estimates the joint health and climate change impact of a global move toward a more plant-based diet.

For the first time, these Oxford University researchers have scoped out "a region-specific global health model based on dietary and weight-related risk factors with the emissions accounting and economic valuation modules to quantify the linked health and environmental consequences of dietary changes". In other words - they created a way of working out that eating less meat is better for us and the health of the Earth.

And the effect on the world's media - and especially in the UK - has been fantastic, making headlines across every national newspaper and broadcast channel, including, of course, The Huffington Post.

The four different diets the study cites for best health and environment are as follows:

• No change

• One that follows health guidelines for fruit, veg and meat

• A vegetarian diet

• A vegan diet

The report predicts more than five million premature deaths would be avoided globally by 2050 if health guidelines on meat consumption are followed, rising to more than seven million with a vegetarian diet and eight million on a vegan diet. These steps, if widely followed, could also reduce global healthcare costs by $1 billion a year by mid-century.

Climate change impacts of the food system will be hard to tackle and likely require more than just technological changes. And as with all social change movements, there is no easy path, but we now have proof things are moving in the right direction.

Of course, (and I would say this!) they need to move quicker if we are to see real-time effects of diet change away from meat and dairy and into plant-based kindness.

Fortunately, it's easier than ever. At Viva! we have a 30-Day Vegan plan and there is so much information online now that the options really are at your fingertips.

Importantly, this is also getting more and more obvious on the high street. A team of us from Viva! were in the Italian chain restaurant Zizzi in Liverpool at the weekend and there was a whole vegan menu! We were so excited we nearly got chucked out.

So, while, the day that people express shock and surprise at someone ordering a sirloin steak may not yet be upon us, I feel it is coming - and I can't wait to see what the science says about the prospects of all of our futures, and that of our home planet, when it does.