There is a lot of talk in the media right now (and apparently among celebrities at award shows) about the effects of animal consumption on our Earth's environment. While I normally could not care less about what celebrities do or say in their personal lives, the use of the their platform (albeit in a sometimes aggressive way) to bring awareness to a hugely important issue is something with which I can get on board.
There is no doubt that the raising and consuming of animals and their byproducts negatively affects the health of our plant in several ways. While I know firsthand that going from a meat-lover to a plants-only-gal is DIFFICULT, what keeps me going strong without looking back is the knowledge I've obtained, the impact I choose every day to have, and the amazing effects on my own personal health. For my own personal journey, it was a step by step process - as it is for many people. If you do wish to switch to a plant-based diet, keep in mind that you do not need to approach it with an all-or-nothing mentality. As time goes on, I find myself anchored firmer to this lifestyle, without the need to go back. If you want more info on making the switch, download my free guide here!
Now, let's dive in:
If every person in the United States had one or more days per week where they did not consume meat or dairy, it would save the environment from thousands of tons of carbon emissions. It would also reduce water usage by about half. These reductions alone would reduce threats to Earth's health and habitability for humans, plant life and animal life.
Water scarcity is a real and very large issue. Currently, over a billion people live without access to clean water. Livestock farming uses significant amounts of water to produce meat.
Another example: Kidney beans require about a tenth of the water required to produce beef, while providing even more nutritional benefit such as fiber, vitamins and minerals, and far less saturated fat.
Farming livestock also pollutes the waterways. When animal waste is managed poorly, it gets into the water and can create "dead zones," where very few species can survive. As of 2011, 530 marine dead zones were identified. (1)
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Earth's temperature continues to increase because of the greenhouse gas we produce. Meat production requires significant amounts of energy. Aside from growing the crops to feed the animals - raising, slaughtering and transporting animals burns fossil fuels. 51% of greenhouse gas emissions each year are due to raising and producing livestock and their byproducts, (2) which is double the amount of a plant-based eater. (3)
Nature, Habitat and Species
Eating animals accounts for the largest contribution of habitat loss. (4)
It takes vast amounts of land to raise animals on. It is estimated that 200 square feet of rain forest is destroyed just to produce 1 lb of beef. (5) This is 3x more land than what is needed for a vegan diet. (6)
In a 2016 Greenpeace Study, it was shown that cattle farming is responsible for 63% of Amazon rain forest destruction. The land is destroyed for soy cultivation for feeding the animals. 80% of Amazon soy is grown for animal feed. It provides high levels of protein to livestock. Much smaller percentages of soy are used for oil or eaten directly.
This territory is crucial for survival. The Amazon is often referred to as the 'Earth's lungs.' Trees collect carbon dioxide and make oxygen out of it.Therefore, less trees=worse air quality.
I hope this info inspires you to assess your own diet and its impact on our planet. Again, going plant-based doesn't have to happen in one day, but if we all took animal products out of our diets for at least one day per week, we could have a great impact. Here's the good news - eating plants has given me so much more freedom when it comes to eating, has made me a far better and more creative cook and provides so much more diversity in meals than meat ever could.
This post is not meant to bully or cause shame or guilt - just the opposite. It is meant to educate and use my voice to speak about things that matter to me. If these things matter to you, then I hope it helps you to make the changes you wish to make! If not, then keep on keeping on and hopefully you become a little more aware from reading this information. I encourage you all to do your own research and become self-educated on this topic.
It is my sincerest hope that the current events of our planet and the information available to us empowers us all to do what we can to help preserve the magnificent planet we live on and the life of the species with which we share it.
(1) World Resources Institute. (2011). New Web-Based Map Tracks Marine "Dead Zones" Worldwide. [online] Available at: http://www.wri.org/news/2011/01/new-web-based-map-tracks-marine-dead-zones-worldwide
(2) Goodland, R., and Anhang, J., 2009. Livestock and climate change. World Watch.
(3) Hedenus, F., Wirsenius, S. and Johansson, D. (2014). The importance of reduced meat and dairy consumption for meeting stringent climate change targets. Climatic Change, 124(1-2), pp.79-91.
(4) Oppenlander, R. (2012). Comfortably Unaware :: Biodiversity and Food Choice: A Clarification. [online] Comfortablyunaware.com.
(5) Rainforestconcern.org. (2018). Rainforest Concern - Why are they being destroyed?.
(6)The Vegan Society. (2018). Food security. [online] Available at: https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/environment/food-security