A few weeks back I came across some pretty horrifying numbers regarding the pressures placed on our Earth by one species – Homo Sapiens.
I knew that there were consequences of our lifestyles that had a negative impact on the Earth, and of course, we all know humans have caused such wide spread devastation to our planet in the pursuit of industry and technology and ‘development’ which is a very positive word for such a destructive drive. We talk about the ‘developed world’ with pride, we have products and services that would have surpassed even the wildest of ancestors’ imaginations, but this has all come at huge cost, mostly paid for by non-human species and the future generations of all species who need Earth to be their home for many years to come.
We hear talk from politicians and government agencies, charities and lobby groups regarding pollution, recycling, preserving resources, cutting back on carbon emissions through car sharing, flying less, showering rather than bathing, not wasting food, we see products with huge investments designed to lessen our impacts on the Earth – hybrid cars, solar power, wind turbines, recycling systems, bricks to place in your toilet cistern.
Being green is big right now and rightly so, each of these products provides great alternatives to their water and gas guzzling, coal burning equivalents.
Alongside all these measures, there’s a big secret that’s generally not addressed, perhaps it’s hidden or just ignored. A played down reality and one which I had vastly underestimated in impact.
We’re told our population is quickly reaching an unsustainable point, that world hunger is set to increase, it’s already seriously affecting 1 in 8 of us on the Earth who are living in famine, but the reality is that there is more than enough food for all, there is a way of feeding not just the 7 billion human inhabitants of planet Earth so each has plenty, but to provide food for even greater numbers as the human population inevitably increases further in the coming years.
We’re warned of global warming and the impending doom that that scenario playing out is bringing to our planet and we have pushes to halt this destruction and lessen our impact, I thought I got it, reduce, reuse, recycle…
But then I learned more and it was this is the image that really hit home to me just how problematic this secret is…
All those pigs, sheep, cattle, chickens need grain, housing, fields, so forests, rainforests, wetlands and other natural habitats are destroyed daily to provide for their increasing numbers.
Rivers are being polluted by all the waste produced by the bi
llions of animals raised for human consumption, this has a further knock on effect on wider eco systems as well, causing extinctions, loss in biodiversity on land as well as seriously effecting the life within rivers and oceans.All those animals, all those resources, they’re all problematic because they are there solely to feed just one of the planets species, it’s entirely unnecessary and as you can imagine is causing extinctions and major environmental damage, not to mention the horrific amount of suffering endured by those animals that are purposely bred for food.
If we rid the planet of the blight that is animal agriculture all the land currently used for for livestock (estimated at 30% of the earths total land surface! – FAO) could be reallocated, the resources could be saved or reallocated to provide food for humans and solve our immediate population concerns, and great areas of what was once forest, destroyed to make way for farmland, could be re-wilded and new forests could be planted. This would encourage wildlife to thrive. Our air would be cleaner, global warming slowed, water cleaner… One species’ priorities are skewed and it’s effecting all species on a global, massive and destructive scale.
70 billion land animals are killed every year to provide unnecessary food for 7 billion humans, many many more fish are also raised on factory farms and taken from oceans, increasing the numbers to 1 trillion lives supported and/or taken for 7 billion people. As human populations increase and trends in nations who traditionally consumed less animal products than us change towards greater meat and dairy consumption, the pressures are just going to increase unless as individuals we do what we can to reduce the demand we’re placing on the earth.
If we divide the 1 trillion animals killed for food by the 7 billion humans they’re bred to feed, it shows on average that we each use roughly 140 animals every single year. Imagine housing 140 chickens, pigs, cows, sheep and fish per person – imagine all that suffering, 140 lives prematurely taken entirely unnecessarily, for nothing more than a taste or to just carry on tradition – meanwhile the Earth is being suffocated under the weight of supporting all these extra lives. Of course these calculations of the average impact one person is making is entirely inaccurate because the vast majority of the people on the planet do no consume animals like we do here, 1 in 9 are living in famine conditions, a much higher proportion are living in poverty, animal products do not form a daily part of their diets, let alone feature in virtually every meal and snack in the huge portions we see in countries like the UK and USA. So the choices of a few who can afford these items is placing this burden on everyone.It takes 10-17x the amount of grain to produce a meal containing meat as it would to produce a meal of vegetables, we’re literally filtering the nutrients we require through another animals body the vast majority of this energy, vitamins and minerals is lost within this process, it is highly inefficient. So if the food needed by that dark grey mass of humans on the above diagram should have an impact of 1 on the earth, instead this impact is multiplied by 10-17x by filtering these nutrients via other animals digestive systems, so feeding 7 billion humans a plant based diet is 10-17 times less demanding on earth’s resources than feeding 7 billion people on a non-vegan diet.Now if we focus on the wild animal numbers, it is clear that their cousins, us, are placing huge pressures upon their numbers. Habitats destroyed, killed because they threaten crops or the 5 or species we choose to breed – thus threatening profits, they have been cleared not just from cities and towns, but from farmed land, which in countries like the United Kingdom, where we pride ourselves on our countryside and wildlife, takes up the majority of land that is available. Aside from the small pockets of land that are maintained as wildlife reserves or conservation zones, our countryside consists of fields – human made grazing grounds protected from the wildlife we consider destructive to profits, which is setting native species at an immediate disadvantage, literally squeezing them out of their homes and driving population numbers down. We have all manner of wild animal culling programmes to protect the species we profit from, wild animals who have as much right to exist on Earth as we do, yet we are conditioned to think of farmed lands as our natural landscape. Our natural landscape would have looked far different.
‘Woodland once covered most of the British
landscape and represented the climax vegetation
community. Woodland colonised Britain around
10,000 years ago, following the last glaciation,
reaching a natural equilibrium between 7,000
and 5,000 years ago (Godwin, 1975; Peterken,
1993). During this peak period the ‘wildwood’ is
thought to have covered around 75% of the
landscape (Peterken, 1993). However, a long
history of human activity has greatly reduced
forest cover, with woodland clearance beginning
as far back as Neolithic times (5500BP) with the
advancement of agriculture. Rackham (1986)
believes that woodland cover in England had
been reduced to 50% by the early Iron Age
(2500BP). By the time of the Domesday Book
(900BP) woodland cover in England had
declined further to 15%, with most of the
landscape comprising farmland with small,
scattered islands of woodland (Rackham, 1986).’ http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/QJF_legacy_of_fragmentation_may06.pdf/$FILE/QJF_legacy_of_fragmentation_may06.pdf
Efforts are being made to increase forest coverage of the UK, Europe and other areas across the world too, but the destruction of ancient forests can never be undone, they provide a unique eco system balance with rich nutrient filled soils which once farmed can never be replaced, so whilst we are trying desperately to undo the destruction caused by animal agriculture in our own nation, we’re also faced with an uncomfortable truth that our farmed animals still need grains, they need these grains at ever increasing quantities and we’re preserving our own nations environment, so where do we turn to satisfy this need? We head across the globe to areas which are being deforested at an alarming rate to accommodate this demand for their grains, to rainforests, the lungs of our planet, where grain is cheap to produce, and the destruction is NIMBY (not in my backyard) so far easier to ignore.
Deforestation in Borneo since 1950 – Grida
Forests have been used to make space for agriculture, not just in Borneo but across the globe, demand for more space being made is placed on such areas due to the demand for more and more animal products, including palm oil which whilst used in human food products, it’s also included in animal feeds. This space is also cleared for grazing lands as the demand for animal products increases worldwide.
So before we can congratulate ourselves on the replanting of trees within our own nations, we should be looking at how we can stop consuming products which have been grown using the land relied on by other species and many millions of trees in other nations. Our greed must stop.
If we’re going to have any hope of combating this huge imbalance we need to on an individual level decide if we wish to be adding further pressure to an already fragile system or whether we wish to limit this impact. Our first step should be in eliminating our reliance on animal agriculture to satisfy a taste. It’s not a difficult measure to take, especially when we consider the consequences of not doing so and compared to addressing your reliance on transportation systems - which places a similar carbon burden, it’s extremely easy. Which would you choose, a life with no transport at all of any kind other than moving from place to place on your own two legs, no imported products, no journeys to transport anything anywhere on your behalf (so no shopping other than purchasing items made entirely within walking distance from resources gathered within that radius), or a life where you swap animal products for plants – a pint of cow’s milk for a pint of plant milk?As you can see below, a plant based diet offers a very clear reduction in carbon footprint.
That’s just the carbon reduction, when you factor in water use, pollution and land degradation as well as the destruction of habitats, rain forests and wetlands to provide farmland for crops used in animal feeds the impact of ditching all animal products becomes an even wider encompassing measure towards protecting our planet.
Taken from www.care2.com
this is an illustration showing the demand agriculture places on water supplies. Remember that 30% of the world’s grain production is fed to animals we’re raising for food and animals themselves require a huge amount of water regardless of the way they’re fed, water is used in dealing with their waste, processing and transporting their bodies and more. In the USA 95% and 80% of the nations oats and corn are fed to farmed animals, so all the Earth’s resources, including water, used in growing these crops is wasted. Remember there’s no need to be farming and consuming animals, these figures are shocking when we realise this is all entirely unnecessary.
We hear lots from non-vegans about ways to stop deforestation, to support wildlife, to reduce carbon emissions and water waste, to preserve our resources and take care of our planet, yet there always seems to be a reluctance to acknowledge the very real and realistic relief the earth would feel were we to stop using animals and start thriving on plants.
All these added environmental benefits result from the decision to become vegan, to not treat sentient beings as resources and in doing so this gives the wild species that non-vegans and vegans alike tend to feel a desire to protect, a better chance at living a life free from unnecessary suffering caused by the human species. No matter how many petitions are completed, how much money is sent for conservation via environmental and species or area specific groups, there’s one very real, very worthwhile, free and straightforward decision we can all make and all reap the rewards from and that’s adopting a plant based diet and animal use free lifestyle as a result of acknowledging animals rights to live a life free from unnecessary use and harm, in other words, become vegan!