Environmentalists take steps to make the world a ‘greener’ place to live – for all it’s inhabitants. Yet most don’t actually include ALL the inhabitants, but stop at humans and sometimes companion animals. But what about the starving humans on the other side of the world? What about the animals which people consume? What about their world? What about the things we do to them affecting our world? When we think about making the world a better, cleaner, healthier place, we have to include the entire flora and fauna of the world – this includes everything. The birds and the bees and the coconut trees…
In a time when population pressures have become an increasing stress on the environment, there are additional arguments for a vegan diet. The United Nations has reported that a vegan diet can feed many more people than an animal-based diet. Check this, projections have estimated that the 1992 food supply could have fed about 6.3 billion people on a purely vegetarian diet, 4.2 billion people on a 85% vegetarian diet, or 3.2 billion people on a 75% vegetarian diet. (Peter Ulvin, The State of World Hunger, reported by UN FAO, 1993. Percentages by calories.)
Let’s take a look into the individual aspects of our environment that can be helped by you making the choice to be vegan:
Land – Rainforests, Deserts, Oceans..You know, where we and our fellow earthlings live! A place to call home is a necessity (there’s only 1 Earth), the luxury lies in the level of quality. Unless we work on improving the environment, nobody is living in the lap of luxury! Going vegan can help the earth move on up to that deluxe apartment in the sky… In Latin America, the greatest amount of deforestation is occurring – 70 percent of previous forested land in the Amazon is occupied by pastures; and feedcrops cover a large part of the remainder. All for the luxury of livestock production. In 2006, Greenpeace published a report indicating that the new trend is for huge companies to clear rainforest land to raise crops to be fed to farmed animals. It specifically blamed the chicken industry for leading the way in the destruction of the Amazon.
Water – That which we drink. It’s a necessity, not a luxury. That sweet nectar of life gets polluted by factory farming, not to mention devastation to aquatic ecosystems!! The Livestock sector (including pigs, chickens, egg-laying hens, and dairy cows) is probably the largest sectoral source of water pollution, contributing to eutrophication, “dead” zones in coastal areas, degradation of coral reefs, human health problems, emergence of antibiotic resistance and many others. The major sources of pollution are from animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feedcrops, and sediments from eroded pastures.
Water required to produce one pound (lb.) of California foods [according to Soil and Water specialists, Univ. of Calif. Agricultural Extension, working with livestock farm advisors: Schulbach, Herb , et. al., in Soil and Water, No. 38, Fall 1978] (02.10.01.05):
1 lb. lettuce: 23 gallons
1 lb. tomatoes: 24 gallons
1 lb. wheat: 25 gallons
1 lb. carrots: 33 gallons
1 lb. apples: 49 gallons
1 lb. chicken: 815 gallons
1 lb. pork: 1,630 gallons
1 lb. beef: 5,214 gallons
Energy and Climate – Carbon footprinting. It seems to be all the rage lately. Change your light bulbs, change your dietary lifestyle! The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalent. This is a higher share than transport! Livestock are also responsible for almost two-thirds (64%) of anthropogenic ammonia emissions, which contribute significantly to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems. In 2006, the University of Chicago published a major report stating that adopting a vegan diet is more important in the fight against global warming than switching to a hybrid car.
Check out these articles for more info on flesh eating and the impacts on the environment:
Rethinking the Meat-guzzler (by Mark Bittman, NY Times)
Eating as if the Climate Mattered (by Bruce Friedrich, AlterNet)
“Those who claim to care about the well-being of human beings and the preservation of our environment should become vegetarians for that reason alone. They would thereby increase the amount of grain available to feed people elsewhere, reduce pollution, save water and energy, and cease contributing to the clearing of forests.… When nonvegetarians say that “human problems come first” I cannot help wondering what exactly it is that they are doing for human beings that compels them to continue to support the wasteful, ruthless exploitation of farm animals.” Peter Singer, Animal Liberation, 1990