As we look at ways to protect the Earth this week, it seems apt, in the wake of Veganuary, to talk about the benefits of converting to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Here are just a few ways you can help the planet by either cutting back on or preferably eliminating your meat consumption:
Cutting back on greenhouse gases
Research assessing four different diets found that adoption of veganism could help avoid more than 8 million deaths by 2050, whilst a vegetarian diet would save 7.3 million lives. Livestock account for more than 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than all modes of transport combined, with vegan or vegetarian diets cutting those emissions by 70% and 63%, respectively.
Feeding the hungry
It has been reported that 1 billion people go hungry every day, and yet livestock consume the majority of the world’s crops. A Cornell University study reported that around 13m hectares of land in the US were used to grow vegetables, rice, fruit, potatoes and beans, but 302m were used for livestock. It has been postulated that we could feed at least twice as many people – and possibly far more – than we do now if humans consumed the grain produced rather than livestock.
Friends of the Earth estimated that around 6m hectares of forest land a year – an area twice the size of Belgium – is converted to farmland, with most of that going to livestock, and a large proportion used to grow soya to feed those animals. UCS also reported that the growing consumption of meat is “a leading driver of deforestation and a significant contributor to global warming emissions”.
A single farm can produce as much waste as a city, with a cow excreting around 40kg of manure for every kilogram of edible beef it gains. This manure pollutes underground water supplies and rivers, and North Carolina’s pig factory lagoon spillage of 1995 resulted in the deaths of 10 million fish and the forced closure of 364,000 acres of coastal wetlands.
Live a longer cruelty-free life
The Vegetarian Society reported that the average British carnivore eats more than 11,000 animals in a lifetime, including 4 cattle, 18 pigs, 23 sheep and lambs, 39 turkeys, 1,158 chickens and 6,182 fish. Not only is that a vast amount of suffering all in the name of sustenance which can be found elsewhere, but it also leads to increased chances of obesity cancers and other heart-related illnesses.
For information on transitioning to a vegetarian or vegan diet, see here