There's no doubt about it. Our planet is dying and the reason for this is our lifestyle. The good news is that we can not only fix it but we can start fixing it today - right now. So let's get started.
We all know that our planet is dying. We also know that the major killers are deforestation, city living and disregard for pollutants from factories are some of the major causes.
But over the last few years, one of the even bigger causes of environmental damage has been uncovered. This problem has been overlooked for decades, but thanks to recent campaign from environmental and animal rights’ movements, the ugly truth is emerging.
What is this huge cause of environmental pollution?
A meat-based diet.
Everyone knows that raising animals for food, especially on “factory” and “industrial” farms is a cruel and unethical practice. But did you know that it’s not only killing the animals, it’s killing the planet too?
The increase of millions of animals being kept on factory (or industrial) farms every year, is taking its toll on our planet in a very serious way.
And the negative impact is 3-fold:
Methane and CO2 emissions from animals’ digestive systems. Deforestation to clear land for farming and to grow crops to feed the animals. Pollution from large amounts of manure and urine. Livestock emissions - CO2 and methane emissions (farts) from pigs, sheep and cows accounts for over 51% of greenhouse gases is the US (WorldWatch Institute, Washington). It also produces 18% of global greenhouse emissions which is more than the entire transport sector - including airplanes - which produces only 13.5% (University of Chicago).
Deforestation - Ten times more land is needed for grazing animals and for growing crops for animal feed. And the crops that are grown to feed the animals are not natural foods for them.
Cows, sheep and pigs are known as herbivores. This means they only eat vegetables (mostly green, leafies), grass and some herbs (e.g. Parsley). Yet industrially farmed animals are fed grain, corn, flax seeds, soya beans and canola because they are fast and cheap to grow. This unnatural diet causes more emissions from the animals, not to mention the unhealthy effect on their bodies.
Not only that but many heavy fertilizers are needed to protect the crops from pests. These chemical fertilizers have a negative affect no only on the animals, but on those who live near the farms and those who eat the animals.
Manure - Factory farming forces too many animals together in unnaturally large numbers,and the amount of waste produced from them is huge. For example, a single pig can produce over 7.5kg a day of manure and urine. So if a farm has 1,000 pigs, that’s nearly 3,000 tonnes of waste every year - and that’s just from one small farm.
Much of this waste is kept in huge manure “lagoons” and eventually watered down and sprayed over crop land or left to seep away. In heavy rains, it can wash away into the creeks and rivers. This large amount of waste, and it’s unsanitised disposal, has a devastating affect on the air, the water and the soil surrounding these factory farms.
The waste also contains other substances that are heavily used in factory farming such as antibiotics and artificial growth hormones. And they are being sprayed onto crops and washing into our rivers and creeks.
It’s easy to see from all this, that factory farming is not sustainable and needs to be stopped.
Thankfully the solution is simple.
We all need to move towards a plant-based diet.
A plant-based diet requires much less land and water that what’s needed to produce a typical meat-based diet.
Animals consume much more protein, water and calories than they produce. And with water and land becoming scarcer globally, the population rising and world hunger increasing, a planet-based diet makes much more sense and it’s more sustainable and helps the planet and people and animals.
And it’s so easy to make the change because there are so many delicious plant-based meals already available from around the world. As just a small example, there are curries and dhals from India, pasta and salads from Italy, tofu stir fry from the Middle East, beans and tortillas from Mexico and hummus and baba ghanoush from Turkey, just to name a few.
And thanks to recent campaigns such as Voicless’s “Factory-Farming; the truth is hard to swallow” and Animals Australia’s “Make It Possible,” more people are discovering the ugly truth about what they’re eating and are turning away from the typical Western meat-based diet.
So the question should no longer be, why vegan? But why not?
Ruth Barringham is a vegan, writer and web entrepreneur from Brisbane, Australia. She runs several websites on the internet and her main site for writers is Writeaholics.net. She also has a new vegan website, Australian Vegan.net.
- Published: 19 February 2013
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