Environmental Reasons to go Vegan (Part 2 of Why I Went Vegan)

I had a different subject in mind for the next part of my ‘Why I Went Vegan’ series, but since it’s Earth Day it only seems appropriate to broach the subject of how veganism benefits the environment. This is largely a matter not of what vegans do, but what they don’t do. They don’t contribute to the demand for animal agriculture, which has a detrimental impact on the planet.

While there is science and numbers being discussed here, I’m not going to go too far into detail when explaining things for the sake of touching on more topics overall. If you’re interested in learning more about this I highly encourage you to check out the sources provided. If you do your own research be aware that there are still some people who deny there is sufficient evidence of climate change. However, the vast majority of publishing climate scientists (97% in fact) believe that the climate is getting warmer and that humans play a significant role in this change.

What you Should Know

1.) Greenhouse gases are basically a layer of fumes that act as a blanket over the Earth. The heat from the sun travels to Earth, bounces off the surface, and heads back out to space through tiny holes in the atmosphere. As the amount of gases increase, it’s as if the blanket is adding layers and getting thicker. This means more heat is being trapped inside, which  is what causes our climate to be warmer. Examples of greenhouse gases include: water vapor, methane, carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and nitrous oxide. Animal agriculture generates large amounts of methane and carbon dioxide.

2.)  Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of human-induced green house emissions. Other common sources are transportation and power plants.

A single cow can produce between 66-132 gallons of methane a day.

3.) Due to it’s potency and lifespan, lowering methane emissions would have a more immediate and significant impact on alleviating climate change compared to other greenhouse gases.

4.) Some producers of animal agriculture try to be more sustainable and lower impact on the environment. Even so, vegan diets provide greater environmental benefits than those including animal products. Generally, a diet high in meat generates 2.5 times more greenhouse gases than a vegan diet.

5.) Animal agriculture requires a lot of land and water resources. Producing one kilogram of beef requires roughly 15,414 liters of water. One kilogram of vegetables requires 322 liters of water on average. Almost 80% of agricultural land is used for grazing and growing food to feed to livestock.

6.) Cattle ranching is the biggest cause of rainforest destruction and animal agriculture as a whole is responsible for up to 91% of the Amazon’s destruction.

Rainforests once extended to 14% of the Earth’s land surface
Now they only claim 6% of that land.

7.) Our oceans are also affected. Fertilizer that runs from farms into water sources are so toxic they actually create ‘dead zones’ in the ocean. (Dead zones are exactly what they sound like.)

8.) Over-fishing is threatening fragile ecosystems. Populations are left too scarce to breed at a sustainable rate, which puts their very existence at risk.

So, what would we see if the world started gravitating toward vegan diets? Slowly, but surely with lower demand of animal products, lower supply would follow. This would result in less methane and CO2 gases being generated contributing to greenhouse emissions. The land and water delegated to animal agriculture could be reserved or used to grow food for people. Threatened sea life would be able to repopulate and no longer be endangered or on the verge of extinction due to human interference. We could also slow deforestation, but it’s important to note that many vegan friendly products also contribute to the rainforest’s destruction. Going vegan certainly does not solve the world’s problems, but it does move us in the right direction.

Sources:

https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048002

https://www.ibtimes.com/cow-farts-have-larger-greenhouse-gas-impact-previously-thought-methane-pushes-climate-change-1487502

http://www.rain-tree.com/facts.htm

Other Resources:

Why wasting water is bad- https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-wasting-water-is-even_b_11114690

More on how meat and dairy contribute to climate change- https://www.globalagriculture.org/fileadmin/files/weltagrarbericht/Weltagrarbericht/04Fleisch/2018GRAINIATPEmissionsimpossible.pdf

A documentary on this subject (it’s on Netflix)- http://www.cowspiracy.com/

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