The reality that our planet is suffering at the hands of human society is undeniable, and one major factor is our dietary habits. We must become more conscious of the environmental impacts of the food we buy and consume.
The greatest obstacle to lowering our environmental impact is a lack of knowledge about the critical impact of the animal agriculture industry and the severe consequences of purchasing and consuming animal products.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calculated the emissions production of animal agriculture to be at least 18 percent of the global human greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). These GHGs remain in the atmosphere of the planet, trapping heat and slowly warming the Earth’s average temperature, leading to global climate-based catastrophes. While many cite transportation as the greatest contributor to pollution worldwide, the culmination of the entire transportation sector’s direct emissions is only a small percentage of the emissions from the animal agriculture industry.
Cows produce methane gas which is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide regarding climate change. The documentary “Meat the Truth” states that in the span of a year, the average dairy cow will produce the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as a car that drives 70,000 kilometers, roughly 1.5 times the length of the planet. The environmental impact of one cow is monumental, yet the industry produces billions each year for the sake of food production.
According to the FAO, the number of animals raised in the animal agriculture industry is more than three times the human population and increasing by 25 million every year. To keep up with the increasing production of livestock, millions of acres of forests in South America are being cut down for feed production and grazing land. These forests are pivotal to the wellbeing of the planet, as the Rainforest Foundation states they produce 20 percent of the world’s oxygen.
According to the Water Education Foundation, 2,500 gallons of water are required to produce one pound of beef, 477 gallons of water are required for one pound of eggs, and 900 gallons are needed to produce one pound of cheese.To put this statistic in perspective, 55 percent of water consumed in the U.S. is used in animal agriculture freshwater resources, while only 5 percent is used by private homes. The demands of the animal agriculture industry require an unsustainable amount of land, water and resources.
One of the simplest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to buy and consume fewer animal products. A plant based or vegan lifestyle may appear difficult, daunting or even radical, but the normalized lifestyle of eating meat and animal byproducts is true radicalism. Animal protein requires more land, water, energy and resources than plant based protein.
Even if you are someone who does not think they can give up meat, cheese, dairy or eggs, reducing your carbon footprint can be as easy as giving up meat or animal products for one meal a day, or one day a week. “Meat the Truth” states that if every American chose not to eat chicken for one meal a week, the effect on carbon dioxide emissions would be comparable to taking 500,000 cars off of U.S. roads.
Going meatless, dairy-less, and/or eggless for a few meals is better than no change at all. We can no longer ignore or deny the fact that one of our most environmentally devastating and unsustainable behaviors is our consumption of animal products. If you care about the planet then you must also care about the environmental impact of what you consume. Refuse to buy or reduce your consumption of animal products. Making either shift will reduce your carbon footprint and help address environmental devastation in the world.
In addition to decreasing your carbon footprint, reducing your animal product consumption has myriad health benefits, including lowering your risk of heart disease, diabetes, most forms of cancer and other health issues. There are no nutrients in an animal-based diet that you cannot find in a balanced vegan, vegetarian or plant-based diet. You can live a more healthy, eco-friendly and animal-friendly life.
Some examples of delicious vegan snacks include guacamole and chips, salsa, any of your favorite fruits and even certain dark chocolate bars. While switching to a plant-based diet may appear daunting, it is comforting to know that even favorites like Oreos and Sour Patch Kids are completely free of animal products.
Save an animal to save yourself, and as a result, save the world.