Running out of answers to the question “but, why vegan”? The environmental argument is just as valid and poignant as any. With so many individuals enraged by the news of Donald Trump opting out of the Paris climate change agreement, perhaps it is time to enlighten them on how pursuing a vegan lifestyle may directly challenge this backward and ignorant decision. We therefore present you with what we deem to be the most pressing environmental arguments in favour of veganism.
1. CO2 Emissions
Raising livestock for the meat industry produces much more Co2 than farming crops for human consumption. According to a study conducted by the University of Oxford on British people’s diets, meat-rich diets produced 7.2kg of CO2 emissions while a vegan diet resulted in only 2.9kg per day. (link.springer.com) Think of the elaborate production process which goes into raising a cow for example and the comparatively small amount of nutrition which comes out of it. Remember, that to raise livestock one must farm the crops first to feed them. So, you may ask the environmentally-engaged omnivore: ‘Why not cut out the unnecessary second stage of the process and thus cut carbon emissions considerably?’.
2. Methane Gas
The raising of cows, chickens and pigs for the meat industry produces ridiculous amounts of methane each year. This matters as a study at Princeton University has shown that methane gas is 30 times more powerful at trapping heat than CO2. (www.sciencedaily.com) There are an estimated 10 million cows living in Britain, each digesting their food in their stomachs rather than their intestines. This means that unlike humans cows must regurgitate their food to digest it and a bi-product of this is methane excreted through belches or flatulence. It may sound silly, but the cow’s farts and excrements are literally heating up the world we live in. In fact, studies show that cows contribute about 25-30 percent of the UKs methane emissions. (animals.howstuffworks.com)
3. Water Consumption
In our world, fresh water is becoming more and more precious as more and more of our sources become polluted or have dried out as an effect of climate change. Around 1.7 billion people live in water stressed regions, which are also the regions with the majority of population growth and agricultural expansion. (www.fao.org) (Part V, p Thus, the shortage in water not only has dramatic effects on wildlife but also directly affects the human population. Vast areas of land dry up and become uninhabitable. If this trend continues, water may become as precious as oil or gold, despite being a human necessity and right. Water is used in a variety of ways in the livestock industry, the most obvious one being keeping the animals hydrated, however there are a variety of other ways in which water is consumed in the industry. Service water is required for cleaning both the facilities and the animals, for cooling the facilities. Water is further required for the processing of meat due to hygiene and quality demands thus producing a high level of waste water. (www.fao.org) (Part V, p 130) To produce 1 Pound (ca. 450g) of meat, the industry uses 2,400 gallons (ca. 11,000 litres) of water. Meanwhile, 1 pound (ca. 450g) of wheat requires only 25 gallons (ca. 114 litres) of water. (www.peta.org)
Due to the appallingly poor and unnatural conditions in which livestock is kept, they require a ferocious cocktail of drugs including antibiotics to keep them alive until they are ready for slaughter. Apart from being horrifically immoral, this mindless use of antibiotics results in the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria. These have the chance to spread into the surrounding environment through waterways and thus end up amongst our human societies, making it harder to treat bacterial infections with antibiotics. A study conducted by Texas Tech researchers showed that the antibiotics Monenisin and tetracycline antibiotics were found in air samplers of regions surrounding livestock farms. (ehp.niehs.nih.gov)
The immense levels of faecal waste which the meat industry produces in livestock factories, pollutes nearby waterways and thus surrounding ecosystems. Due to a lack of animal sewage processing plants, the excrement is either stored in waste ‘lagoons’ or sprayed over fields (ew!). The excrement which leaves the factory contains dangerous bacteria and viruses endangering not only surrounding wildlife but also the human population. Furthermore, this waste product emits dangerous gases such as nitrous oxide, ammonia, endotoxins etc. which cause pollute the surrounding air. (www.sustainabletable.org)
Tying ourselves to trees is surely far less effective than simply opting out of meat consumption. After all, the meat industry is one of the main causes for deforestation. The industrial scale at which animals are reared, for the meat and dairy industry means that immense stretches of land are required for grazing. In Brazil which is one of the largest exporters of beef worldwide, the rearing of cattle is responsible for 65-70% of Amazon deforestation. (news.mongabay.com) Deforestation has catastrophic effects on our environment not only due to habitat destruction but also by reducing the potential of trees to clear CO2 from the air, in fact deforestation is responsible for about 10 percent of greenhouse emissions. (www.ucsusa.org) The meat industry is thus not only producing ever more CO2, but also destroying nature’s self-cleansing mechanism in the process.
7. Habitat Destruction & Wildlife Extinction
Particularly species rich habitats such as the Amazon rainforest are being cleared for the raising of livestock by the meat industry. An estimated 70 percent of the world’s animals and plants live in forests, deforestation thus threatens their survival through habitat destruction. (www.livescience.com) Particularly cattle ranching has caused the destruction of vast stretches of the Amazon. As forests thin out, soil erosion increases and delicate ecosystems fall out of balance.
(www.worldwildlife.org) These human-induced alterations mean that several species which depend on very specific conditions for survival are endangered. In effect, the meat industry reduces biodiversity and thus denies future generations of the beautiful variety which nature holds.
8. Destroying the Oceans
Industrial scale fishing is destroying the ocean’s fragile ecosystems just as much as deforestation is endangering those on land. The shockingly destructive bottom trawling method of fishing used by all major fish suppliers causes the destruction of precious flora and fauna. Heavy weights are attached to nets and dragged along the sea-floor scooping up and destroying everything in its path. Though the aim is to gather fish, corals and other fragile and important organisms are ripped from their environment leaving behind a devastated wasteland. According to Greenpeace bottom trawling amounted in 7 Kg of ‘bycatch’ for every 450 g of marketable sole in 2004. (greenpeace.org.uk)