It is no secret that there is an epidemic in the U.S. relating directly to diet, specifically to consuming animal products. However, not only do these dietary habits lead to poor health and pre-mature deaths, they also have a negative effect on the environment. Animal agriculture is killing both the planet and its people.
As we become more aware of the cruelties of industrialized animal farming, the ethics of eating animals, and the implications of processed animal products on health and on the planet, veganism is gaining popularity. In light of the environmental crisis we are currently experiencing with regards to climate change, a movement to reduce and minimize the demand for animal products is crucial.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report in 2018 warning that if there is no change regarding greenhouse gas (nonrenewable energy) emissions within the next 12 years, global temperature will surpass 1.5°C — just half a degree more will lead to a disastrous climate breakdown and even more extreme weather conditions.
We only have a decade to reverse the effects of climate change. We are nowhere near a manageable level considering the fact that we run on a linear system with the consumption of products that go right to waste but release tons of fossil fuels into the atmosphere in the production process.
Animal agriculture emits more greenhouse gas than all forms of transportation combined, and it is a leading cause of freshwater pollution, deforestation, destruction of the ocean and loss of wildlife and biodiversity. In addition, the farming of animals for food uses a large amount of the Earth’s finite resources — 70 percent of agricultural land, not to mention 10 percent to grow animal feed. The majority of grains are produced for animal feed, not for humans. Approximately 7,000 grams of grain and more than 15,000 liters of water are required to produce only two pounds of beef — an inefficient use of resources, to say the least.
A key solution to this crisis entails Western countries reducing their beef and pork consumption by 90 percent, poultry, dairy and sugar by 60 percent and replacing these items with five times more lentils and other legumes and more than four times the number of nuts and seeds.
A recent study indicated that if all Americans transitioned to a plant-based diet, everyone in the nation would be fed — including the 41 million who will experience hunger at some point during the year — plus, approximately 350 million more people.
If the U.S. were to adopt a vegan diet, greenhouse gas emission would decrease tremendously, because the number of livestock would be reduced, improving the health of the environment and that of many people.
Unfortunately, some people feel discouraged about becoming vegan because making this lifestyle transition limits the supply of important nutrients that are mostly found in animal products, including vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin D, calcium, arachidonic, eicosapentaenoic fatty acids, and docosahexaenoic fatty acids. Most of these nutrients exist in non-animal products, but at a much lower level. B12, on the other hand, is not; however, B12 supplements are readily available at grocery stores throughout developed countries.
That being said, the consumption of animal products is no longer necessary — especially in the Western world where there is a plethora of alternatives, which are also much cheaper. At this point, it is best to take on a whole food plant-based diet, which minimizes intake of animal products and eliminates intake of processed foods.
Start by skipping meat one day a week — low-meat consumers produce 35 percent less greenhouse gas. Although veganism will not solve all the planet’s problems, the arguments in favor of it are becoming too compelling to ignore.