Climate change and the destruction of natural habitats are potentially the biggest challenges we have ever faced as a species. Many of us our taking conscious steps to help prevent this by recycling, driving less and switching to energy saving products. The simple truth? This is not enough.
Every day new evidence is coming to light showing just how destructive animal agriculture is for our planet. Like many others, we were turned onto the clear link between veganism and the environment by the excellent documentary Cowspiracy. The choice of what we eat, has the largest effect on our ecological footprint.
If you are a non-vegan reading this blog, you may be shocked by some of the following facts and want to down play the true impact of your choices. One truly beautiful aspect of the vegan movement is its ability to empower people on an individual level to help bring about change. By accepting responsibility for your choices you are no longer powerless. You begin to realise that you are not separate from nature or our environment, but an integral part of it.
How does being vegan help the environment?
6 Million animals are killed for food every single hour. Let that sink in. Globally there are currently over 250 million dairy cows serving an abhorrently cruel dairy industry. In the UK alone 40 million unwanted male chicks are killed at birth every year just so you can have an egg with your breakfast. 82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals which are in turn eaten by those in western countries. Wake up.
Over the last 50 years, global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in human history. Global warming is caused by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses collecting in the earth’s atmosphere and trapping in heat energy that would have normally escaped. We now know that switching to a vegan diet is the most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.
Humans now consume over 200 Million tons of animal products every year. A figure almost double that of 30 years ago. Livestock and their byproducts are estimated to account for up to 51% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock are responsible for 65% of human related emissions of nitrous oxide which has nearly 300 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Cows produce 150 million gallons of methane per day. Methane is 25-100 times more destructive than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period. The good news, is that according to the UN, reducing methane would show an almost immediate benefit – a clear reason why veganism is better for the environment.
1.1 billion people lack access to fresh water with a further 1.5 billion lacking access for at least one month of the year. A large percentage of crops grown to fed to European farm animals are grown in developing countries where water is scarce. Animal agriculture is responsible for 20-33% of all fresh water consumption in the world today. A massive 2500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1lb of beef and a shocking 1000 gallons needed to produce one gallon of milk. 56% of US water consumption goes to growing feed for livestock. Slurry from livestock is incredibly polluting to groundwater streams and rivers.
Tropical rainforests are known as the “lungs of the earth” absorbing vast quantities of CO2 and releasing it back into the atmosphere as oxygen. Rainforests once covered 14% off the earths surface, now they cover just 6%. Slash and burn farming is a common practice for clearing land for growing feed and grazing livestock with an acre of rainforest destroyed every second. Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of all rainforest destruction. Over 100 plant, animal and insect species are thought to be lost every day as a result of deforestation – that’s 30,000+ a year.
3/4 of the worlds fisheries are currently exploited or depleted with some warning that we could see fishless oceans by 2048. As many as 40% of fish caught globally every year are discarded along with the 650,000 whales, dolphins and seals killed by fishing vessels. Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of ocean dead zones. These are areas of low oxygen caused by excessive nutrient pollution which are unable to support life. The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico currently measures 22,730 sq km.
Is being vegan better for the environment? Of course. Does that make vegans somehow superior to others? Of course not, we were all ignorant once. If you are fortunate enough to have climbed a rung higher on the ladder, use your position to reach out and help others climb up with you. Only with togetherness, compassion and love can we solve these problems.