The state of our environment and the fact that our every action has an impact on it, is not necessarily a popular discussion topic in our daily lives. The odd time it is brought up, solutions of recycling, using solar power, changing light bulbs and taking shorter showers are bound to arise. Although finding your own ways to reduce reliance on important resources is a step in the right direction, these minuscule actions alone will not create tangible change when animal agriculture is there to counteract and dismiss all of them. “Our global food system dominated by industrial animal agriculture is at the heart of our environmental crisis.” It is surprising that the subject of veganism (not consuming animal products) is so disregarded in the environmental conversation with the enormous impact that animal agriculture has. It is in fact the biggest challenge facing the environment, as every time that we consume animal products, we actively participate not only in the slaughter of sentient beings; but create and enable deforestation, species extinction, fresh water scarcity, biodiversity loss and climate change to become more widespread issues.
Climate change is arguably our most serious environmental concern. It is the result of our species releasing enormous amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. “By disrupting the atmospheric balance that keeps the climate stable, we are now seeing extreme effects around the globe”-David Suzuki. As rallies, marches and conferences are held all around the world, the message of climate change has been heard. Countries are using more renewable energies, hybrid car commercials have begun to replace their fuel exhausting ancestors and carpooling has become mainstream. All meanwhile animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gas emissions and contributes more to climate change than the entire transportation industry. It is estimated that livestock production is responsible for as much as 51 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while transportation accounts for merely 13%. (The Worldwatch Institute) Examining more closely, the production of one calorie of animal protein requires more than ten times the fossil fuel input than a calorie of plant protein. (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) “The real war against climate is being fought on our plates, multiple times a day with every food choice we make” -Nil Zacharias.
Along with climate change, the water crisis is quickly growing in magnitude and seriousness. More than one billion people do not have enough clean water to provide for their basic human needs, and while domestic water consumption accounts for 10% of total freshwater use, 70% is consumed by livestock and their food crops. The concern for taking shorter showers and turning the tap off while you brush your teeth is a an outrageous one if you knew that just one pound of meat requires the amount of water needed to shower for 6 months! Outrageous because our habitual diet is no different from our repetitive morning routine, what really is concerning is that we know the importance of how we perform one and not the other. Currently Flint Michigan and Southern California are having water troubles, people are going without the supply of freshwater… while nearly half of the freshwater in the United States is going to raising animals for food. (Eating Green)
Similarly, there is enough food on earth to feed every man, woman and child- yet between 13 and 18 million people die each year due to starvation. It takes 5 times more water to produce 1000 kcal of meat then it does to yield 1000 kcal of fruits, vegetables or grains.(Balancing Water for Humans and Nature) Earth has all of the resources to feed everyone on the planet and still, billions of people are living in and dying of poverty each day. It is not a scarcity problem, it is a distribution problem. It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of edible animal flesh. This 1 pound of animal flesh can only satisfy 1/3 of the caloric needs of 1 person, when the original 16 pounds of grain could meet the caloric needs of 10 people. Continued growth in meat output is dependent on feeding grain to animals, creating competition for grain between affluent meat-eaters and the world’s poor. (The Worldwatch Institute) The world’s cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people—more than the entire human population on Earth. (The Global Benefits of Eating Less Meat) If the world went vegan tomorrow the 80-90% of crops that currently go to feeding livestock could feed the world’s hungry and cut out the middle man that consumes an inane amount of food.
For the amount of water and food the animal agriculture industry consumes, equally crazy amounts of land are required. The industry accounts for up to 91% of amazon destruction. Current rates calculate that 1-2 acres of rain forest are cleared every second to graze for livestock. Keep in mind, more usable plant protein can be produced per acre than meat protein. This inefficient misuse of space costs the loss of up to 137 plant, animal and insect species every day. We as individuals can do more than turn off the tap, shut off the lights and recycle. Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square
feet of forested land and 20 pounds of CO2 equivalent. (Cowspiracy)
Animal agriculture is the biggest challenge facing the environment, and eating animals isn’t even necessary! Humans do not need any nutrient from animal products that they cannot obtain from a plant source. In fact, our species thrives on a plant based diet; rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future. Our food choices have the power to heal our broken food system, give species a fighting chance for survival, and pave the way for a truly sustainable future. (One Green Planet) The challenge now becomes taking the steps necessary to put animal agriculture behind us.