Go Vegan and Reduce Animal Agriculture’s Toll on Our Environment
by Bill Simpson
Animal agriculture is harmful to our environment. A worldwide shift to a plant-based or vegan diet would have a hugely positive impact on the health of the planet and on the creatures who live here.
According to a study cited in GreenAndGrowing.org, a meat-eater’s diet causes more than seven times as much greenhouse gas emissions (the pollutants linked to climate change) as a vegan’s diet. That means that, compared to a meat eater, a person who enjoys a vegan diet will keep 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere every year.
Another major problem caused by animal agriculture is deforestation and the loss of habitat for native animals. For example, the Amazon Rain Forest is hardly what it used to be. According to the World Animal Foundation, 70 percent of the Amazon forest has become pastures and fields where animals graze and crops grow, and while some of those crops go to feed people, most of them become animal feed.
The practice of turning forests into pastures for animals and the resulting environmental damage are hardly exclusive to South America. Across the United States and all around the world, forests have fallen to create fields where animals can graze and where crops to feed them can grow.
This environmental damage happens largely because animal agriculture is a very inefficient practice. Producing one calorie of animal protein consumes about 10 times as much fossil fuel energy as producing one calorie of plant protein does, and growing feed for animals uses large quantities of chemical fertilizer, which comes from oil, as stated on OneGreenPlanet.org.
Our water supplies also suffer from the practice of animal agriculture. Farm animals produce millions of tons of manure every year. Much of that waste finds its way into waterways, and the consequences can be very harmful. The phosphorus and nitrates in manure can cause the spread of algae and waterborne pathogens, which can be harmful to wildlife and people.
A conversion to a vegan diet is something for environmentally conscious people to consider seriously, and it’s a change that comes with the bonus of a potentially longer and healthier life, as a new study from Harvard Medical School recently indicated. The vast world of plants provides many benefits not only for people who choose to add them to their dietary regimen, but for the planet as well.
Bill Simpson is a local writer who made the switch to a plant-based diet in 1974. Today, he enjoys an active lifestyle that includes running, biking, gardening, and delivering Natural Awakenings.