One of the main reasons cited for turning vegan is “for the environment.” But how big an impact does animal farming and their related industrial practices have on our planet?
Just to set the scene I want to open with these shocking statistics:
◦260 Million Acres (and counting) of US forests have been clear-cut to create land for producing feed for livestock.
◦70% Of the grain that is produced in the US is fed to farm animals
◦Scientists at the Smithsonian Institution have stated that the equivalent of SEVEN football fields of land is bulldozed every single minute to create more land for farming animals.
◦2,400 Gallons of water is needed to produce 1 pound of meat, only 25 gallons is needed to produce 1 pound of wheat. You would save more water by not showering for 6 months than you would by eating a pound of meat!
◦In the 2004-2005 crop season all the wild animals and trees in over 2.9 million acres of the Amazon Rain forest in Brazil were destroyed in order to grow crops to produce feed for chickens and other factory farmed animals.
◦Close to half of all water used in the USA goes to the production of animals for food.
◦A United Nations report from 2006 states that animal agriculture is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”
◦The EPA reports that roughly 80 percent of ammonia emissions in the US come from animal waste. Atmospheric ammonia can disrupt aquatic ecosystems, ruin soil quality, damage crops, and jeopardize human health.
Another way the animal and dairy industry damage the enviorment is the production of greenhouse gases. Im sure many vegans may have told you “It’s a huge producer of greenhouse gases.” This is true infact the global food system, from fertilizer manufacture to food storage and packaging, is responsible for one-third of all human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the latest figures from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a partnership of 15 research centres around the world.
But for this to make sense what are greenhouse gases and how do they impact our environment?
When sunlight reaches Earth’s surface some is absorbed and warms the earth and most of the rest is radiated back to the atmosphere at a longer wavelength than the sun light. Some of these longer wavelengths are absorbed by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere before they are lost to space. The absorption of this longwave radiant energy warms the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases act like a mirror and reflect back to the Earth some of the heat energy which would otherwise be lost to space. The reflecting back of heat energy by the atmosphere is called the “greenhouse effect”.
So the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere act like a mirror and reflect back to the Earth a part of the heat radiation, which would otherwise be lost to space. The higher the concentration of green house gases like carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the more heat energy is being reflected back to the Earth.
Using estimates from 2005, 2007 and 2008, researchers found that agricultural production provides the lion’s share of greenhouse-gas emissions from the food system, releasing up to 12,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year — up to 86% of all food-related anthropogenic greenhouse-gas emissions. Next is fertilizer manufacture, which releases up to 575 megatonnes, followed by refrigeration, which emits 490 megatonnes. The researchers found that the whole food system released 9,800–16,900 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere in 2008, including indirect emissions from deforestation and land-use changes.
…Whats wrong with the greenhouse effect, I will just get more of a tan???
Increasing global temperatures are causing a broad range of changes, more than I myself had conceived. Sea levels are rising due to thermal expansion of the ocean, in addition to melting of land ice. Amounts and patterns of precipitation are changing. The total annual power of hurricanes has already increased markedly since 1975 because their average intensity and average duration have increased (in addition, there has been a high correlation of hurricane power with tropical sea-surface temperature). Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns increase the frequency, duration, and intensity of other extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts, heat waves, and tornadoes. Other effects of global warming include higher or lower agricultural yields, further glacial retreat, reduced summer stream flows, species extinctions. As a further effect of global warming, diseases like malaria are returning into areas where they have been extinguished earlier.
It is clear a vegan diet is a easy and practical response to this issue.
This being said I have spoken to a lot of people who say “I would go vegan but its too hard”, “I would go vegan but I love cheese.” Veganism may appear to hard or too extreme for some people. That’s perfectly acceptable, but I encourage everyone who can to take this information and make a conscious choice to reduce your dairy or meat intake.