Today we see more and more people trying to conserve energy, water and gas. And this is a great thing. It means we are becoming more environmentally conscious. We recycle, ride bikes instead of cars, use LED light bulbs, take shorter showers and many other conservation techniques in order to reduce our carbon footprint. However, when it comes to sustainability of our planet and its resources, there is one single action that is so powerful, it will save energy, water, and gas than more than any other action we could take. Little do we know, it is our food choices that have the biggest impact on the environment. What we eat can either destroy our planet or preserve it. Eating plant-based foods such as grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits and vegetables preserve our planet using much less of the Earth’s natural resources.
For our planet to be healthy, we should first think about the land, water, air, and living ecosystems. Now with that in mind, ask yourself, “what industry is using massive amounts of land, food and water, causing tremendous amounts of pollution, and destroying ecosystems?” The answer lies in animal agriculture.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, we raise 70 billion animals each year for food. That is 70 billion animals that need food, drinking water, land, not only for living space and grazing, but to also grow the crops that feed them. This is directly responsible for the complete loss of over 30 million acres of rainforest each year. Without the rainforest the Earth loses its ability to breathe and supply fresh oxygen. The same happens if raising steers for grass-fed beef. Even more land and water is required. To add, fresh water is not an unlimited resource that many people seem to think and we are using it at unsustainable rate. To put this in perspective, a cow needs 30 gallons of water a day to survive and a pig needs 21 gallons. To produce one pound of edible beef its takes over 5,000 gallons of water but only twenty-sixty gallons for a vegetable or grain. For a gallon of animal milk it takes 2,000 gallons of water. Furthermore, due to deforestation for cattle ranching, we lose entire ecosystems of plants and animals causing species extinction not to mention the loss of habitat of the native people from that land.
With the staggering number of raising 70 billion animals still in mind, animal agriculture is once again the leading contributing factor of air and water pollution. The air in which we must breathe to live is polluted with greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide, ammonia, and carbon, which come from livestock in the form of flatulence and manure as part of their digestive process. While it is true, human activities have an influence of the increase in greenhouse gases but in fact, it is the livestock industry that produces more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector combined. This means raising livestock is the leading contributing factor of global warming or in other words climate change.
Have you thought yet, where does the waste of 70 billion animals go? To give you an idea of how much that actually is, consider just in the United States alone, livestock produce five million pounds of feces per minute! This industry pollutes our waterways more than all the other industries combined. It finds its way into our oceans killing plants and sea life causing ocean dead zones. To make matters worse, the fishing industry is emptying our oceans at a rate of complete depletion. In a report by the United Nations Environment Programme, In Dead Water: Merging of Climate Change with Pollution, the devastation of our oceans is “greater than anything witnessed on land.” The fishing industries are clearing the largest amount of marine life-distinct species and communities, associated with the seabed at an irreversible rate. Sadly, for every one pound of shrimp caught, there is more than twenty pounds of other sea animals caught and discarded. If we continue on this path, scientists estimate that by 2048 we will have empty oceans.
It also must be said that third-world countries raise, feed, water, and kill animals for people to eat in developed nations causing hunger and poverty in their own country. The demand for animal products in developed nations such as the U.S, U.K, and Europe drives policy-making on a global basis. Essentially, animal agriculture is perpetuating hunger and poverty in third-world countries by using their food to feed livestock instead of humans.
Our own actions to consume animal products has placed us in the next mass extinction, in which is entirely human-induced and not by uncontrollable forces as the past five have been. It is not a matter of IF but when. Eating animals and their by-products is simply not sustainable. There are many other alternatives, plant-based options that are sustainable to the Earth and kinder to all earthlings.