“We are, quite literally, gambling with the future of our planet- for the sake of hamburgers.” -Pete Singer
I often get asked why I became vegan.
Inquiries into my vegan origin story almost always occur over a meal. Therefore, I sanded my answer down to the smooth phrase, “for the animals and for the planet.”
(You’ll note that I declined to mention my health. A plant-based diet is considerably healthier than one with animal products. However, last night, I ate tortilla chips over the sink for dinner, so throw me into the sea).
The first reason I became vegan was to reduce the needless suffering of animals. As I researched further, I realized with horror that our modern meat-consumption is killing our planet.
Recently, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report connecting the meat on our plates to ultimate planetary destruction. As the report indicates, both the burning of fossil fuels for energy and animal agriculture are two of the biggest contributors to global warming.
Globally, fossil fuel-based energy is responsible for about 64% of human greenhouse gas emissions, with animal agriculture at about 18%. Of course, converting our fossil-fuel based energy system to a sustainable renewable system is a top priority to curb climate destruction.
Not to be undervalued, however, is the incredible impact we can have on looming planetary death if we just cut our animal consumption.
Here is a parade of horribles about the meat and dairy industries:
- Agriculture is responsible for 92% of global water consumption.
- Growing feed crops for livestock consumes 56% of water in the US. One pound of beef is the equivalent to leaving your shower on for two months.
- The meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than all the SUVs, cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world combined – animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation (transportation exhaust is responsible for 13% of all greenhouse gas emissions).
- Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.
- In addition to habitat destruction caused by clearing forests and converting land to grow feed crops and for animal grazing, predators and “competition” species are frequently targeted and hunted because of a perceived threat to livestock profits. Essentially, our obsession for meat has caused a mass extinction.
- Commercial fishing contributes to global depletion of species and resources. We could see fishless oceans by 2048.
- Beef production is the biggest cause of deforestation in the Amazon. More land is cleared for hamburgers than any other cause in the region. Specifically, 1-2 acres of rainforest is cleared EVERY SECOND for beef production. A startling fact – 1 year without using paper, saves 8.5 trees but 1 year without beef saves 3,432 trees.
It’s very scary. You should feel scared.
So what can we do?!
A plant-based diet is a major way to fight against climate change. It’s not the only thing we have to do, but it would be a huge step towards saving our planet.
More than recycling.
More than riding your bike.
More than replacing plastic straws.
It would be like – now hear me out on this – if we dug thousands of feet underground to unearth ancient, decayed organic matter, once powered by the sun, and then BURNT that matter to get energy, when we could just harness energy directly from the sun!
HAHAHA HOW STUPID, RIGHT!?!?!?!?!
As consumers, we shape the world around us. Three times a day, we have a choice to vote for our future. When we buy animal products, not only do we impose a death sentence upon those animals, we impose that same death sentence upon our only home.
It’s a bold move to live life outside of how you’ve been programmed or told to.
I applaud everyone who has decided to make changes for the benefit of our earth, but there is always more that can be done, a step farther, a change that NEEDS to be done.
The answers to climate change, pollution, habitat destruction, species decline, and other environmental problems don’t lie solely in the hands of self-serving governments and multinational corporations. It lies partially on your plate. You can start changing the world immediately, by simply deciding to change your diet.
This is compelling, liberating, hopeful.
Photo by Ty Hyten
If you’re still with me here, first of all, congrats. I challenge you to try something different tomorrow. Maybe choose a meat-free meal, explore your options, do some research. There is nothing negative about changing something for the benefit of something much larger than you.
If the leftover juice from beans can turn into a macaron, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING.