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From Factory to Table: How Reducing Your Intake of Animal Products Can Impact the Environment

It’s no surprise that we’re in the middle of a climate crisis, unless maybe you’ve been living under a rock.

The last thing I want to come across as is the preachy vegan that nobody likes. I might be a bit biased, but it’s true, us vegans have got a bad reputation. Yet, I really feel no different from someone who chooses to eat meat, or has other dietary restrictions like being gluten-free, or paleo. So why must we have to take all the heat?

So I digress, this article isn’t to bring you over to my side, nor is it even close to that. Vegans and vegetarians alike make up only an estimated ~11% of the world’s population. However, climate change is so much bigger than that. If everyone in the world today agreed to take one day out of their week where they ate no animal products, the impact would be so much greater than a sliver of the population going solely vegetarian or vegan.

Here are three reasons why you should consider reducing your animal product intake and how it can impact the environment.

Livestock farming has a substantial atmospheric impact

If you’re unconvinced in any way that what you put on your plate has no impact on your environmental footprint, think again. A 2014 study found that approximately ~14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to livestock agriculture. That’s more than all the emissions combined from the transport sector! Even with ambitious efforts to reduce the emissions intensity of livestock production, “rising global demand for meat and dairy produce means emissions will continue to rise.”  A July 2018 study in Science asserts that meat consumption will increase as the result of human population growth and rising individual incomes. This will also in turn, increase carbon emissions and further reduce biodiversity. We often think of how meat impacts us on a nutritional level. Such as diets high in processed animal products are often known to increase the risk of many diseases such as cardiovascular disease and Type II diabetes. Yet, it’s staggering that most people don’t consider where their food comes from and the sheer amount of energy and effort that is required to produce it. There are no shortcuts when it comes to the immense environmental impact this industry has on our planet.

It requires a ton of resources

Water? Check. Land? You bet. Meat production is highly inefficient. This holds especially true for red meat. To produce one kilogram of beef, it requires ~15,000 liters of water. The average hot tub holds only ~716L. You would need 20.9 hot tubs to have enough water to produce 1kg of beef. 

Holy cow (pun intended).

In terms of land, there is currently a huge controversy in America about a plan to kill ~45,000 wild horses in places like Montana, to make more room for livestock. Approximately 26% of Earth is currently allocated to livestock alone. Not to mention, the fires in the Amazon rainforest burned 2.24 million acres of land…for what you ask? Agriculture. Usually, these fires are naturally occurring due to lightning strikes and dry seasons, but the recent outburst of fires have not only been deliberate but also selfishly destructive.

More food for us, equals less food for others

Something you may have not considered is how agriculture can actually contribute to and propagate food insecurity. It takes 12 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef. A 2013 study found that growing these crops for human consumption instead of livestock would increase available food calories up to 70%, which is enough to feed an additional 4 billion people. It takes about 13 pounds of grain to produce a single pound of meat. All that grain would go a long way toward feeding the hundreds of millions of people—many of them children—who don’t have enough to eat. With surging population numbers, this is often something that is very much overlooked. 

The case for continuing to eat animal products is hard to swallow, and I don’t blame you. So many of us have been conditioned by our cultures, families and even our government to eat animal products and not even think twice about the harm it actually causes. By implementing a plant based diet for even one day a week, you can proliferate change. There are so many other reasons out there why implementing plant based foods can not only help the environment, but your health and well-being as well.

The louder we speak, the more we are heard. Instead of forming an army of pure vegans/vegetarians, we need to band together to make an effort to prioritize the health of our planet. It owes us nothing, and we owe it everything.

If you would like to calculate your impact on the environment, check out this website here:

https://vegancalculator.com

Alexa Fiorante

Queen's U '21

Alexa Fiorante is a 3rd year Biotechnology Student at Queen's University in Kingston, ON, Canada. Alexa loves all things science and medicine, and when she's not hitting the books, you can find with either a guitar or camera in hand! Catch her on Instagram @alexa_nina
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