How Being Vegan Helps Make the World Better
So, what’s all the hype about being vegan anyway? There are usually three main reasons people choose this lifestyle. It’s not because it’s a fad (or at least I hope not) but rather because it contributes towards something greater than us. The reasons are: 1) for the animals, 2) for our personal health, and 3) for the environment. Since each of these topics warrant an in depth look, I am going to focus on only one today.
As a child growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I loved playing in the woods, swimming in the ocean, camping under the stars, hiking above the clouds, and running around bare foot until the sun went down. Nature has always shown me how to live in the moment and view life in a new light. There is so much beauty surrounding us, including the wild animals that roam the earth and swim in the depths of our oceans. We aren’t the only species on this planet; we share it with millions of other creatures. It should be our duty to preserve it for the human race, the animals we share it with, and for generations to come.
The question is, how can individuals help preserve the environment? Some of the most popular ways that you probably already know are by recycling, refraining from using unrecyclable plastics, taking shorter showers, riding your bike instead of driving a car, or buying a hybrid or electric vehicle. Although these are good ways to start, there is a bigger problem on our hands. One reason for this blog is to help educate those who are still left in the dark, just like I was before I went vegan. It is not my intention to offend anyone or force my view on others—but with education comes knowledge and motivation to alter our human behavior, to take action towards making a change in our personal habits, and as a whole, create a life-long difference in this world.
One of the greatest benefits about going vegan is helping the environment. After I learned the information I am about to tell you, it only made sense for me to help protect mother earth by not being a part of the ultimate climate change culprit— livestock farming (including growing crops for feed). [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations] It is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, whereas transportation exhaust is only responsible for 13%. This means if you ate more of a plant-based diet, you would make a greater difference than limiting how much you drive. Something else that most people don’t consider is the amount of methane produced by cows. Methane is 25-100 times more destructive then CO2. Researchers say that on a 20-year time frame, methane has a global warming potential 86 times that of CO2. [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cowspiracy] So if you really think about how many cows are being raised for beef and then think about how much methane is being released into the atmosphere… you can start to see how our planet is in serious trouble if we keep going down this route. Agricultural farming is also the leading cause of deforestation, water and air pollution, animal extinction and biodiversity loss. [Cowspiracy]
So how much land does livestock farming really take up? Including both the land it takes to raise cattle and the land it takes to grow the livestock feed, it takes up 1/3 of the earth’s ice-free land and covers 45% of the earth’s total land. [Cowspiracy] Just think about that for a moment. One third is a huge amount of our planet being dedicated to livestock farming. On top of that, while all of this is going down, it is the leading cause of species extinction. We are losing wild animals through habitat destruction, which is caused by clearing forests and converting land to grow feed crops and for animal grazing. Farmers also hunt and kill predators to keep from killing their livestock profits. I always find it peculiar when people point out to me that going vegan seems a little extreme, when in the grand scheme of things it is actually quite simple and far more beneficial to the environment, our health, and the animals.
Another reason why livestock farming is harming our environment is because of the amount of water being used to raise cattle and grow livestock feed. It is responsible for 80-90% of US water consumption. Did you know that it takes it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef? [Cowspiracy] When you think of it this way, cutting down the length of your shower doesn’t have anything on reducing the amount of beef in your diet.
If our ocean life dies, it will affect all life on earth. Eighty percent of oxygen we breathe actually comes from the sea. If we let our oceans die, we die.
I get this question all the time, what about seafood? Seafood doesn’t seem so bad, right? Just the opposite actually. Often times the effect on the planet through the process of commercial fishing is overlooked, but it is so important we understand how it truly is harming our ocean. There are many negative environmental consequences to commercial fishing and over fishing has been identified as a primary cause of ecosystem collapse in many aquatic systems. Commercial fishing has nearly caused species extinction, habitat destruction, and in the miles of fishing nets being dragged across the ocean floor there is a large amount of bycatch.
Over the past twenty years, an estimated 85,000 sea turtles have been killed as bycatch and an estimated 300,000 marine mammals and 3 million sharks are lost to bycatch from fishing practices each year. [One Green Planet] Not only is this tragic for these mammals but we also need them for our oceans to survive. Researchers are predicting that all fisheries will have collapsed by year 2048 due to loss of bio-diversity caused by over fishing and the many other human threats facing ocean wild life, such as pollution, climate change, and the loss of vital habitats. [One Green Planet]
Our rain forests are like the lungs of our planet for producing oxygen for the survival of all species. They stabilize the climate, house an incredible amount of plants and wild life, and produce rainfall all around the earth. They absorb carbon dioxide, reducing the effects of worldwide climate change. As you can see, they are an essential part of our environment and we should be treating them so, but sadly we are destroying them. Animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of amazon destruction and 1-2 acres of rain forests are cleared every second. As the human population grows, so will the demand for food. I can’t help but think what will happen when the demand for animal products is so high we have no forests left to spare.
I never even thought about this until I became more educated about veganism, but 82% of starving or undernourished children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and many of the animals are exported to western countries. [Cowspiracy and Global Citizen] Pretty twisted, right? One third of the world’s grain production is used to feed livestock when we could be feeding the hungry. The consumption of animal products in today’s world is not a necessity, with the possible exception of poor nomads who require livestock to survive in extreme arid conditions or during a drought (e.g., camels). Yet we are producing enough grain globally to feed two times as many people as there are on earth, but instead most of it is fed to livestock. If the demand for animal products was significantly lower, we may just have more crops available to help feed the hungry.
Can the World Survive Off Plants?
I hear this question a lot: Is a vegan world sustainable? Obviously, the world wouldn’t turn vegan overnight, but the more people eating more plants and less animal products, the less harmful it is to our environment. The amount of land it requires to feed one person for a year on a vegan diet is 1/6th of an acre, a vegetarian diet would be three times as much as a vegan and on a meat-based diet it would be 18 times as much as a vegan diet. That is a lot less land and resources. A person who follows a vegan diet produces the equivalent of 50% less carbon dioxide, uses 1/11th oil, 1/13th water, and 1/18th land compared to a meat eater. Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life. [Cowspiracy]
Organic, Grass-fed, and Pasture-raised
Aside from factory farming, what about organic grass-fed and pasture-raised farms? Aren’t those better for the environment and more sustainable? Sadly, it’s not quite that simple. The amount of land used for grass-fed cattle is actually much more then factory farming. So for starters, we would not be able to feed the whole world on organic grass-fed beef because there simply just isn’t enough space on earth. More then a quarter of the entire United States is used as pasture and grazing land for livestock. Globally, 45% of all land on earth is used for livestock and feed production, with the majority of this being used for grass-fed livestock. [Cowspiracy] This means much less forest and much more carbon in the atmosphere that otherwise would be absorbed by trees. We also must consider that grass-fed livestock live longer lives, meaning they use up much more water resources.
How You Can Make a Difference
I hope you found this information useful. If you appreciate the beauty surrounding us as much as I do, please take action and help to protect it. You too can choose to make a difference. Take action steps to help reduce your carbon footprint and bring a positive change to the environment. One simple way to do this is by adjusting your diet and consuming more plant-based meals and reduce the amount of animal products you consume.
I know it may seem extreme, but the amount of good you will be doing for our planet, the animals, and your own health will be rewarding. There are so many delicious vegan foods to try. If you need some ideas refer to my recipes on my website or don’t hesitate to reach out! Thank you again for caring enough to take the time to read this and please share it with your friends and family. The more people we can reach the better for our planet.
For more information go to: cowspiracy.com
Educational/motivational documentaries to get you started: Cowspiracy, Earthlings, Forks over Knives, What the Health, and Dominion.