BY TERRASEED / November 3, 2021
Yes, veganism is a necessary step towards saving the planet. This is something you might have heard from any vegan advocate out there, but exactly how does cutting out meat and dairy and ultimately following a plant-based diet have a positive impact on the environment?
The answer to that question is complex and includes a variety of different areas and points that can be analyzed. The truth is that the animal agriculture business is unsustainable at every step of the way, and of course, we have to mention that it is cruel and unethical as well.
It remains a fact that veganism presents an all-embracing solution to the threat posed by animal agriculture, as this practice creates the largest environmental footprint.
There really is no area left unaffected by this industry, thus making it difficult to isolate and explain just a few reasons why veganism is truly a solution.
To start off, it all boils down to resources. Natural resources which are either used or abused by the animal industry are, and will remain, finite. As the population grows, the animal agricultural sector needs to obtain more natural resources to meet the ever-growing demand, thus impacting, either directly or indirectly, on the environment.
The impact of the animal industry on land use
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 26% of the earth’s terrestrial surface is used for livestock grazing. According to a comprehensive analysis carried out in 2018, nearly 60% of the world’s agricultural land is used for beef production, as it required 30 million square kilometers of land to be produced, but accounted for less than 2% of the calories consumed throughout the world and only made up 24% of the world’s meat consumption. In the cases of poultry and pork production, each used approximately two million square kilometers of land in that year.
The extensive use of land for animal products has led to deforestation, soil erosion, which may exceed 100 tons on severely overgrazed pastures (and 54 percent of U.S. pasture land is being overgrazed); and biodiversity loss resulting from loss of habitats. Moreover,
The animal industry is responsible for water pollution, air pollution, greenhouse gases emissions and global warming.
The impact of the animal industry on water
Regarding other resources such as water, the animal industry is responsible for the use of one-third of all freshwater. Grain-fed beef production takes 100,000 liters of water per kilogram and chicken, 3,500 liters. In comparison, wheat production uses only 900 liters per kilogram. As for crops, more than half of the U.S. grain is fed to livestock instead of being consumed by humans. On a global scale, 40% of cultivated crops are destined to livestock, leading to one-third of the planet's arable land being occupied by these crops. David Pimentel, a professor of ecology at Cornell University, has stated that if all the grain currently fed to livestock was consumed by people, 800 million people could be fed!
Potential impact of veganism on land and water
As you can see, veganism is not only the sustainable choice, but the most equitable one as well.
As a vegan, in one year, you can save...
401,500 gallons of water
10,950 square feet of forest
365 animal lives
14,600 pounds of grain
7,300 pounds of CO2
Even just one day of eating plant-based can have a major environmental impact. Picture this, it takes more than 3 acres of land to feed one omnivorous human, while vegan food production takes up only one-sixth of an acre. According to Pimentel, the 7 billion livestock animals in the United States consume five times as much grain as is consumed directly by the entire American population. From 41 million tons of plant protein produced to feed livestock, only 7 million tons of animal protein are produced for human consumption.
Veganism overall is an opportunity to create a more sustainable world, where equality is at its core. Repurposing natural resources to avert its exploitation is a necessary next step to finding an equilibrium in what we take and what we give to our planet.