How Does Veganism Help the Planet?
Climate change and environmental destruction pose a major risk to our survival of us and our planet. We have no choice but to positively change the way we interact with our environment. There are many ways we can do this, but the single most effective thing we can do as individuals is to go vegan. Here’s why. HOW DOES VEGANISM HELP THE ENVIRONMENT? Global Emissions Recent studies show that one-third of all global emissions are created by the food industry and meat production is responsible for over 50 percent of this! That is equal to the total emissions of the US, just from meat products. So, if we all went vegan, we could reduce the amount of emissions equal to the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Another major risk to the environment is biodiversity loss. Animals and plants provide essential ecosystem services that allow the healthy function of our beautiful planet. When we deforest lands for beef production, or overfish our delicate ocean ecosystems, we disrupt this healthy balance. This has terrible consequences for us and the environment. Plant-based foods take up less land than animal agriculture, so no land needs to be deforested, and actuall,y we can return a huge amount to its natural state, thereby helping wildlife and allowing nature to provide for us, as it always has done. More than 80 percent of the world’s farmland is taken up by livestock, but this produces only 18 percent of the calories and 37 percent of the protein produced on the planet. This is because farmed animals are not efficient at converting feed into meat. This inefficiency is one reason why, even though we produce enough calories and protein to feed the whole world comfortably, world hunger still exists. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 82 percent of starving children live in countries where crops are fed to animals destined for western diets. These crops could feed hungry people instead. Conserves Water Globally, animal agriculture uses 20-30 percent of freshwater. This comparison table from Water Footprint shows just how much more water is required to produce animal products. For example, pulses require less water per gram of protein than all animal-based proteins. So, going vegan and prioritizing plant-based foods, can save vast amounts of water. Cleaning The Soil In the US, our soil has lost as much as 60 percent of its original organic carbon content. This is due to industrialized agriculture and the loss of forest land associated with this. Removing trees from land not only leads to soil erosion, but the grass that replaces the trees cannot provide the same minerals to the soil. By going vegan, we free up land that would be used for animal agriculture and can allow it to return to its natural state, eventually returning soil to its naturally rich state. Reduces Energy Consumption Greenhouse Gases The entire process of raising animals for food is energy inefficient and produces vast amounts of greenhouse gases. It starts with the crops we grow to feed animals, from which we get fewer calories back in meat, which is an inherently inefficient process. Then comes the energy-intensive process of turning living beings into meat. If inside, their housing must be heated and lit artificially, then they must be slaughtered, dismembered and processed. Finally there is transportation, refrigeration and packaging. This all adds up to make animal agriculture one of the most energy inefficient and polluting industries on the planet. It’s no wonder it makes up at least 14.5 percent of all human generated greenhouse gas emissions. Cleanse The Air As well as releasing vast amounts of climate-changing greenhouse gases, animal agriculture can also damage local air quality. Hog farms in North Carolina, for example, are responsible for illegally over-spraying manure on fields, releasing toxic gases such as nitrous oxide into the air. The health of local people has suffered greatly from breathing this toxic air and they have been forced inside to avoid the awful smells. Prevent Species Extinction The World Wide Fund for Nature has reported an average 68 percent decline in animal population sizes in the last 46 years. This is alarming biodiversity loss that could have huge consequences for us and the planet. In North America, 52 percent of all biodiversity loss can be attributed to changes in land use, largely agricultural changes due to animal agriculture. Going vegan frees up more space for agricultural land to be effectively rewilded and therefore reverse this alarming biodiversity loss. Put simply, if we stopped destroying natural habitats to create farmland, we could preserve them. If everyone switched to a plant-based diet we could reduce global land use for agriculture by 75 percent and preserve natural habitats. The Amazon Rainforest One of the most diverse and delicate habitats on the planet, the Amazon rainforest, is being deforested in favour of agricultural lands. The rate of deforestation is still increasing and soared to a 12-year high of 9.5 percent between 2019 and 2020. The single most effective way of slowing and reversing this destruction is by going vegan. Stabilizes The Ocean The recent Seaspiracy documentary brought the terrible state of our oceans to light. Today, the average person eats twice as much fish as 50 years ago. As a result, over 60 percent of global fish populations are fully fished and declining and 30 percent are overfished. We are already seeing the destabilization of the delicately balanced ecosystems in our oceans. The consequences of this include huge species loss and eventually, no more fish in the ocean. By going vegan, we can reduce the demand for fish that fuels such exploitation of our oceans. Waterway Cleaning Factory farmed animals produce waste, often too much waste for farm silos to handle. North Carolina alone generates upwards of 10 billion gallons of animal waste per year. Waste spills are a common occurrence and pose serious threats to aquatic ecosystems and human health. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 46 percent of North America’s waterways are in poor biological condition, and industrial agriculture is a leading cause of this. Going vegan and boycotting farmed animal products is the best way to reduce impact on waterways. Protect The Rainforest And Land The best way to protect the rainforest and preserve land is to stop cutting down forests in favour of farmland. A vegan diet prioritizes growing plant foods, which take up much less land and can be used to promote soil health and biodiversity, while protecting the forests Replenish The Sea The best way to replenish our oceans is to leave them alone. The sea’s ecosystems are delicately balanced and rely on there being healthy fish populations. If we continue to remove billions of fish from the ocean, these ecosystems will collapse. It also works in reverse however and if we leave fish in the ocean and take care of the sea, it will naturally replenish itself. We must act now, before it’s too late. By going vegan and replacing seafood with one of the many excellent alternatives, we can begin replenishing our oceans and maintain them for the future. Remove Nitrous Oxide Nitrous oxide is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, released by fertilizers and the manure of farmed animals. When factory farms over-spread their waste manure, nitrous oxide is released into the atmosphere. It has a global warming potential of 298 times that of carbon dioxide, so it is extremely important that we reduce the levels of nitrous oxide we release into the atmosphere. Uses Less Resources The vegan diet uses 75 percent less land, one fifth of the water and has a much lower energy consumption than a meat-based diet. Why wait to go vegan? HOW DOES VEGANISM HELP CLIMATE CHANGE? There are many ways the vegan diet helps fight climate change:
It is the diet with the lowest carbon footprint.
It helps reduce biodiversity loss.
It reduces deforestation. Trees are a major carbon sink for the planet.
It replenishes our oceans, restoring ecosystem services that help fight climate change.
VEGAN ENVIRONMENTAL STATISTICS
Veganism can reduce an individual’s carbon footprint by up to 73 percent
A global vegan diet would reduce agricultural land use by 75 percent
Of the five major emission sectors, animal agriculture produces the most greenhouse gases, at 18 percent
Meat is responsible for around 60 percent of all agriculture related emissions
IMPACT OF A PERSON BECOMING VEGAN Going vegan is the single biggest change we can make as individuals to help the environment. In fact, going vegan for even just one month has huge benefits. You could save:
913 square feet of forest
620 pounds of harmful carbon dioxide emissions33,381 gallons of water
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO THE ENVIRONMENT IF EVERYONE WAS VEGAN? There would be much less cultivated agricultural farmland on the planet, meaning there would be much more natural wild land available. This is fantastic for the environment, as natural habitats and biodiversity provide essential ecosystem services to this planet. Without them, the healthy function of our planet would break down and humanity would not last long. The amount of greenhouse gases we are emitting would also go down and climate change would be slowed. We may be able to avert catastrophic climate breakdown.This would save our environment from destructive events such as forest fires, harmful algal blooms, extreme heat, flooding and many more. Our oceans would begin to return to their natural state, where sealife flourishes. Overall, humans, animals and nature would be healthier on a vegan planet. CONCLUSION
Veganism is one of the most effective individual decisions we can make to help the environment. We can vastly reduce our individual carbon footprint, reduce deforestation, clean waterways and air, replenish our seas and stop the rapid extinction of species on our planet. On top of all of this, it is nutritious, delicious and ethical. What are we waiting for? Try vegan today.