More and more people are waking up to the fact that this world is in a terrible mess due to human activities and realising that we can all play a part in helping to save the planet. Going vegetarian or adopting a vegan lifestyle is one of many ways it is possible to play a helpful and responsible role in creating a green and sustainable future.
Animal or human food?
In simple terms the benefits of switching to such a diet comes down to the fact that as much as two thirds of the grain harvested in the world goes towards feeding animals farmed for meat and dairy products. That means a considerable amount of food that could have fed humans actually goes towards fattening up the animals that people want to eat. It doesn’t make a lot of sense now does it?
It has been said that if all the grain being currently fed to livestock were eaten by people instead, the number who could be fed would be nearly 800 million.
It is not only the large quantities of grain used to feed the animals that is grown on land where the crops could have gone towards feeding people that is the problem. There is also the wasteful use of resources that go into meat production. One pound of meat takes as much as eight times the required amount of energy to produce as one pound of vegetable protein.
Looking at calorific value a 12-ounce steak contains 940 calories, whilst to produce it has required 32,900 calories. How can this wastage of energy be justified?
Senior U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization official Henning Steinfeld has stated that the meat production industry is “one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems.”
Saving the World’s Water
Water is becoming a vitally needed but scare commodity in many places today and droughts can kill so surely we need to think carefully about our use of this precious liquid. Yet up to 200 times the same amount of water is required to produce a given quantity of meat as compared to that needed for the same weight in grain.
Destruction of the rainforests
We are all horrified by the continued destruction of the rainforests but did you know that, according to the U. N., as much as 70% of those forests destroyed in Brazil are cleared to make way for cattle farming. Between 1966 and 1983 alone, 38% of the forests in the Amazon region were destroyed because of this. The burger chains with their demand for beef are causing much of the devastation of the South American jungles, which are destroyed so that cows can be grazed on the land.
If that wasn’t bad enough, after the land is no longer any use for cattle farming it gets sold on to farmers to grow soya on. But do their crops go to feed people? Unfortunately not because the soya gets mostly sold as animal feed just like the grain.
We have all heard how greenhouse gases are adding to the problem of Global Warming but the farming of cows for beef and dairy products is making the situation much worse. One million cows can produce as much as 220 tons of methane gas per day. That is just from the flatulence of the animals alone. Their manure creates a lot of nitrous oxide on top of that, and this is another of the greenhouse gases that contribute to the problem.
In fact, nitrous oxide is said to be 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, which is a well-known gas believed to be contributing to Climate Change. According to the U.N., the meat, egg, and dairy industries are creating as much as 65 percent of worldwide nitrous oxide emissions.
The excretions of chickens, turkeys and pigs also produce methane, and just think how many of these animals and birds are kept in factory farms around the world. Scientists studying climate change say that every pound of methane gas is more than 20 times as effective as carbon dioxide at causing heat to get trapped in our atmosphere. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has demonstrated that animal farming is the single greatest source of methane emissions in America today.
Pollution of the environment
The farming of animals for meat and dairy produce also is contributing to the pollution of the planet on a staggering scale that many people are probably not aware of. In America it is responsible for causing more water pollution than all the other industries combined. Nitrate fertilisers used on crops grown to feed animals and harmful pesticides so often end up in streams, rivers and lakes.
Meat and dairy farming is a major threat to the environment in so many ways. Besides destroying forests and polluting the waterways it is also causing soil erosion. As much as six billion tons is lost each year in the U.S.
Prevention of animal cruelty and deaths
Many people become vegetarians and vegans because they care about animals and hate to think of them being kept cruelly and killed just to provide food. It has been estimated that one single vegetarian on average saves the lives of at least 95 animals from being slaughtered each year. The fewer animals reared for meat and dairy production the less greenhouse gases are being produced as well.
Saving the land
If everyone switched to being vegetarian or vegan think how much land could be saved! As much as 90% currently used to support the meat and dairy industries could be replanted as forests, designated as wildlife reserves or used for recreation and leisure activities.
It has been said that as many as 20 vegetarians can live off the land one meat-eater would need. This alone shows that farming animals for meat and dairy is a terribly wasteful practice.
There are many other reasons besides caring about the environment for changing your eating habits. Eating fruit and vegetables is known to be good for the health and is another logical reason for taking up a vegetarian diet. Heart disease is far more common among meat-eaters and is just one of many serious illnesses that are likely to be prevented by a healthier diet of fruit, nuts, cereals and vegetables. Obesity is another serious health problem today and it is known that vegetarians and vegans are generally much slimmer than people who consume meat and dairy.
Vegetarian foods can work out a lot cheaper too than a diet that includes a lot of meat and dairy produce. You save money on what you buy but also, because vegetarians can benefit from better health, you save on healthcare costs too.
Just reducing your meat and dairy consumption is still worth doing if you don’t want to go the whole way with making the switch to a new diet.
In view of this, and all the other points made above, surely it is a good idea to cut down on eating meat or better still of becoming vegetarian or a vegan?
By Steve Andrews