Veganism and the Environment
The many health benefits of veganism are becoming more and more well known. A vegan lifestyle helps promote weight loss, healthy blood sugar levels, lower risk of heart disease, and improved kidney function. Vegans often report reduced arthritis pain and an improvement in overall health leading to higher levels of energy and an enhanced ability to handle stress. A vegan lifestyle is good for your immune system, encourages the consumption of whole foods over processed foods, and naturally introduces a wide range of vitamins and nutrients into the diet. Choosing to become vegan can have a lifelong impact on your health and quality of life.
But did you know, veganism has a positive impact on the environment as well? It should be no surprise that taking animal products out of the food equation would have a huge effect on our environment. If you consider how many resources go toward raising animals for food, it only makes sense that conserving those resources would benefit the environment overall.
Worldwide, raising animals for food has had a devastating impact on the environment. The resources that go into industrialized animal farming are massive and cause incredible amounts of pollution. Current methods of industrial animal farming are inefficient and waste limited resources such as clean water and fossil fuels. For example, it takes more than ten times as much fossil fuel to produce one calorie of animal protein as it does to produce one calorie of plant protein.
Close to half of the land on our planet is used for raising animals. Animal farming is responsible for the vast majority of rainforest destruction. Since 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced by the rainforests, this is a loss to the planet we simply can’t afford. Devoting so much of our space to the industrialized farming of animals leads to habitat loss for wildlife on a huge scale. Forests are converted to pastures, forcing wildlife into constantly shrinking spaces and contributing to the extinction of animals and plants around the globe.
In the Western world, it may be difficult for us to conceive of life without constant access to an abundance of safe, clean water. We take for granted the easy flow of water from multiple faucets in every home, but in many parts of the world, clean water is a scarce resource. About one fifth of the water in the world is used for raising animals for food; meanwhile, about one fifth of all people on the planet lack access to safe drinking water while hundreds of millions of more people are at risk for also losing access to fresh water. In the United States, we use ten times as much water for animal agriculture as we do in private homes. By reducing the number of animals raised for food, we can use our precious water resources for people in need rather than for supporting animals consumed as food.
Industrialized agriculture is also responsible for contributing to global warming. The methane and nitrous oxide produced by farm animals are a leading contributor to greenhouse gases, making up anywhere from 15 to 51% of emissions worldwide. The amount of fossil fuels used to transport livestock, feed, and processed animal products around the world adds to the problem. When you factor in pollution caused by pesticide runoff and animal waste disposal, the impact of large scale farming around the world simply cannot be underestimated.
While it may not be a realistic solution for every human on the planet to become vegan, committing to lifestyle changes can make a difference. Educate yourself and your family on where your food comes from and the effect it has on the environment. Support local farms and farmers as much as you are able. Not only is this good for your local economy, but small farms are more likely to practice sustainable farming methods and avoid the use of pesticides.
Another practical and easy to way to reduce your participation in unsustainable animal farming is to simply consume fewer animal products. Don’t limit yourself to “Meatless Monday” now and then, but perhaps try eating vegetarian or vegan until dinner time each day. Learn some vegan recipes and try gradually reducing the animal products you use on a daily basis.
If enough people begin to move away from an animal based diet and show an interest in supporting sustainable practices that are better for the environment, we can affect real change in our world.
- by Russell Simmons
- August 10, 2018