It is estimated that each one of us who is not vegan is responsible for the violent death of 356 nonhuman animals annually, as well as the plunder of 401,500 gallons of water, 10,950 square feet of rain forest and 14,600 pounds of grain, and the additional production of 7,300 pounds of CO2.
As more and more people begin to wake up to the prejudice and injustice inherent in enslaving and slaughtering fellow animals, it’s also becoming known that animal agriculture, including so-called “free-range” and “organic,” is implicated in some of the worst crimes against the planet.
With our world within sight of a major breakdown from resource scarcity and subsequent geopolitical conflict, it has become crucial that we face up to the need for a radical shift in behavior. Drastic, sweeping changes are needed, and they must begin with each one of us.
Our collective addiction to animal products has driven us to create systems of production that are not only utterly unsustainable in the long-term, but are also immediately damaging to natural eco-systems, populations of free-living animals, and the survival of indigenous peoples.
To provide affluent countries with “meat,” dairy and eggs (not to mention leather, wool, fur, and feathers), we have destroyed major portions of the world’s wild lands, altered the levels of gases in the atmosphere, and decimated many free-living animal populations beyond recovery.
As the human population continues to grow, and industrialization expands ever further, it brings with it the excesses of animal agriculture, and as a result, we currently run the risk of driving into collapse the essential life-preserving systems of the planet itself.
Even the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has confirmed that “livestock production is one of the major causes of the world’s most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.”
Animal farming is the world’s largest user of land resources according to the FAO, which estimates that grazing land and cropland for producing feed represents almost 80% of all agricultural land, and that 14.5% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions comes directly from our farmed animals (greater than all transportation combined). As explained by the NY Times in 2018, “These calculations of emissions exclude the fertilizers used to grow food for livestock and they typically don’t look at alternative-use scenarios, like what would happen if we removed cows from grasslands and let wild ruminants like bison and deer take over.” Animal agriculture also requires enormous amounts of water and energy, and ever-increasing quantities of soy, corn, and other grains, leading to the destruction of vast tracts of rainforests.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, agriculture in the United States – a large percentage of which serves the demand for animal products – contributes to nearly three-quarters of all water-quality problems in the nation’s rivers and streams.
Becoming vegan allows us to step outside of this terrifyingly destructive animal-based production system, and become a part of the growing movement toward an infinitely more sustainable model, that will meet the needs of our growing human population with consideration and respect for the interconnectedness of all life on our ailing planet.