People ask me all the time why I am vegan. ‘Do you do it for the animals, your health or the climate?’ is a common question that I get. My answer is: ‘all of the above’. Over the years the reasons to stay vegan just seem to pile up, my drive for veganism only gets stronger. But it is true that I went vegetarian about 6 years ago for just one reason: the climate. It was the first thing that triggered me to change my diet. And since it was the thing that made me go vegetarian, I want to share more about it with you. So, today I am sharing more about the environmental reasons against meat consumption.
As I said, I switched to a vegetarian diet about 6 years ago. It was around that time that I started to learn more about sustainability. I watched documentaries and read books about the subject. Cowspiracy is one documentary that really convinced me. And then I thought: I have to try this if we want to save our species. But going vegetarian seemed like a big step and so I cut it down. I thought: let’s just try it for a month. That’s doable. If I like it, I will continue. I’ve been a vegetarian (and vegan afterwards) ever since. Below I’ve listed all the environmental reasons against meat consumption.
The first and most obvious environmental reason against meat consumption is that it causes big amounts of emissions. This is especially important for when you eat ruminants, but it accounts for all animals. It is estimated that there are about 1,7 billion cows on this planet and about 50 billion chickens. And that’s only cows and chickens! They all emit methane, a greenhouse gas that is way more powerful than CO2. Therefore, eating animals is directly responsible for 5,8 per cent of all global emissions.
However, as we all know, there’s a lot more to it than only the direct emissions from the animal themselves. There’re emissions from growing the feed for animals, from the production of fertilizer that’s used to grow the feed, from transporting the animals, from the slaughterhouses, etc. Therefore, it is hard to calculate the precise number of emissions that comes from eating animals. However, according to the top 10 of things you can do to live more sustainable, meat is on number 2, which tells us a lot!
This is something I’ve written about before, when I argued that overpopulation is not a problem. From all the land on earth, only 71% in habitable. From all that habitable land, we use 50% for agriculture. Not cities or settlements, no, agriculture. We use half of our land for agriculture. If that were necessary that would be okay. But it’s not necessary. From all that agricultural land, we use 77%(!) for livestock. That’s insane and it shows the amount of land that is needed for meat production. And since we’re in the middle of a biodiversity crisis, we could use that land much better. To preserve nature for example. Someone who eats meat uses 18 times more land than a vegan. 18 times!
Then there’s the water-use that comes with meat production. Meat production is very water intensive. Globally, we use 70% of all fresh water for agriculture. And as I said, 77% of all agricultural land is used for livestock. So from all fresh water we have on earth, the biggest share goes to livestock. There are people who don’t have access to fresh drinking water, but we do give it to animals. It makes no sense. For Dutch people, 85% of their daily water use goes to their diet. The numbers for one item are also astonishing. 100 grams of beef requires 1.500 liters of water!
Then there’s the deforestation. Currently, 77% of all agricultural land is used for livestock. However, the meat consumption is still rising. And since meat uses so much land, we need to find new places to grow their feed. One land-type is seriously affected by this: tropical forests. The soil is very fertile in the tropical forests around the world (the Amazon, the Congo Basin and the tropical forests in Indonesia). That’s why these forests are being cut down, the land is used for livestock and feed. Beef is the biggest driver of deforestation, it accounts for 41% of all deforestation around the world. Only beef. We could stop 41% of all deforestation if we all went vegetarian right now.
Last but not least, the waste. People usually think romantically of livestock. The animals poop on the land and then this land grows their feed. A perfect cycle. This could not be further from the truth. There are massive surpluses of manure. We currently have way too many animals to use up all the manure on the land. That’s why it’s usually stocked up by the millions. This causes environmental problems because the nitrogen and ammonia leak from these shit-tanks. In places where the law is lenient, farmers even spray the shit into the air all day long, just to get rid of it somehow. In the United States alone, the animals produce 130 times more manure than all humans.
Adding onto this post of all the environmental reasons against meat consumption, I’ve also written a post about the ethical reasons against meat consumption. And together with this post there’re so many reasons to become a vegetarian. If you think about it, there’s only negative aspects when it comes to eating animals. It’s a lose-lose-lose situation. Nobody wins.
Have you switched to a vegetarian or vegan diet yet?