Written by Abbey Feola
We already know that going vegan helps protect farmed animals. In addition to the tremendous human threats faced by farmed animals, we also know that entire species of wild animals are struggling to survive. The threats to these animals range from climate change to water pollution. However, many of these disparate threats share a common cause: domestic animal agriculture. In industrialized countries, plant-based foods use fewer resources, land, greenhouse gases, and water, and emit fewer harmful chemicals (AJCN).
The theme of the 49th Earth Day is “Protect Our Species” (EARTHDAY). One of the many ways we can support our environment, and animals both farmed and wild, is by decreasing the number of animal products we consume.
GHG Emissions and Climate Change
One of the biggest threats to many animals is climate change, a process in which certain gases create a “blanket” that traps heat around Earth. This change in heat then disrupts everything from weather patterns to ocean currents and directly threatens over 7,000 species (IUCN). The sources of climate change are diverse, and animal agriculture is one major contributor.
Plant-based foods consistently have lower carbon footprints than animal-based foods (AJCN). In the U.K., eating a vegan diet will produce half as much greenhouse gas as eating an omnivorous diet (Springer). Methane is a gas that traps 21 (FAO p82) – 36 (EPA) times as much heat as carbon dioxide. The cattle industry produces 37% of U.S. emissions (CDC). Nitrous oxide is a gas that traps 265 – 298 (GHG p82) times more heat than carbon dioxide and animal agriculture produces 65% of U.S. emissions (CDC xxi).
When we mitigate global warming through decreasing demand, production, and consumption of animal products, we decrease the drastic changes in species’ environments and help them survive.
The Amazon Rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world (MONGABAY) and known for its incredible biodiversity. Many species in the Amazon — billions of individual animals — are losing many (INSECT) of its species (TREE), due to both deforestation and climate change.
Deforestation has been happening in the Amazon for decades (DEFOREST); in 2018, about 978,000 soccer fields’ worth of land was cleared (BRAZIL). Cattle ranching is a major driver of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon (WORLDBANK), and most cleared Amazon area in Latin America is eventually maintained as pasture (FAO).
A Changing World
Over the past decade, the UN has repeatedly called for the world to decrease our meat consumption in order to combat environmental destruction (GUN). To some extent, we’re listening, with a rising number of plant-based products in our stores (NIELSEN)!
Let’s use this Earth Day to keep listening, and eat to protect animals both farmed and wild.