A few things to start off: I am in the middle of a biodiversity/biodiversity loss series and this ties in heavily to it. If you want to learn more about a human’s impact on biodiversity, stay tuned for my next video.
Second, I am not trying to persuade every single person into going vegan, that would be amazing, but unrealistic. Instead, I want to educate you all on how over-consuming meat is just as detrimental to the planet as overconsuming plastic or petroleum or fill in the blank. Overconsumption is never good. If we can all take a step, even a small one, back from eating meat and eating more plants instead, we could have a cleaner, more sustainable future. Keep reading to find out why.
I went vegan for the planet, but at first, I have to admit, I thought it was mumbo jumbo. So, if you also think this is crazy talk, I encourage you to read all the way through and consult the sources I have linked to read more. Again, you don’t have to go vegan overnight. Try just having one vegan meal a week as we will see even that has a HUGE impact.
First, let’s talk about growing food
A common argument against veganism is “we won’t have enough food.” Actually, we already do have enough food, it’s just going to feed the animals we eat. The animals are acting as the middlemen for the grain and soy. Sure, we won’t just be eating soy and corn, but we could turn that land into production for carrots and peas and you name it. 70% of the grain grown in the US feeds livestock and globally, 83% of the farmland is for raising animals leaving only 17% of the farmland as land for human use. It is estimated that over 700 million tons of food that could be consumed by humans goes to animal agriculture instead and could feed an estimated 800 million people.
But, why is this better for the planet?
I highly encourage you to watch Kiss the Ground, a documentary about regenerative farming. Our current agriculture system is 3 main crops: field corn, soybeans, and wheat. Can you guess where a majority of it goes? To feed cattle and other livestock. These crops are known as monocrops and lead to soil degradation and things like drought and flooding. If we move away from monocultures, we can see less flooding and droughts in the future.
Eating less meat means less water consumption
Water is a valuable resource and you can learn more about that here. Not only do livestock drink an exceptional amount of water, but the water that it takes to grow their food is immense. Yes, it requires water for our food too, but we require MUCH less food than a cow, meaning a lot less water use. In fact, it takes 100-200 times more water to raise a pound of beef than a pound of plant foods meaning that if you cut just 1 kg of beef out of your diet, you can save up to 15,000 liters of water. Even replacing 1 chicken saves 4,325 liters!
Factory farming leads to water pollution, soil degradation, and oftentimes deforestation
Notice how I said factory farming. This is an unpopular vegan opinion, but I think that you can still eat meat more responsibly. Yes, it still has a higher eco-impact than plant-based, but if you avoid factory-farmed meat altogether, that is a huge win, too. This is especially important for those transitioning or trying vegan for the first time. It’s hard to quit meat cold turkey (pun heavily intended) so if you have to eat meat, choose a local farmer (organic!), not a factory farm.
Anyway, excess fertilizer from crops used for factory farming can leach into groundwater which can affect local food and water sources. Not to mention, this can make it’s way all the way to the ocean and affect fish and wildlife. Plus, all the animal waste also has the potential to end up in our groundwater, ew!
Kiss the Ground did a really good job talking about soil degradation on factory farms, I will try to summarize. Because they keep the animals in such small lots, the grass is very quickly eaten and stomped away leaving behind no roots to keep the soil in place leading to easy floods and droughts and soil degradation. Not to mention the monocrop issue we talked about earlier. Experts estimate that we could run out of topsoil in just 60 years, that’s just 60 more harvests if we keep farming as we have been since the dustbowl.
Lastly, deforestation. From 2000-2010, industrial agriculture accounted for about 80% of tropical and subtropical deforestation. While palm oil is included in that number, the other two main contributors are soy harvesting and cattle ranching in places like Africa, Asia, and Latin America. We saw in 2020 just how harsh the outcome can be of deforestation in these areas with the Amazon fire. By not eating meat (or as much) you will help preserve habitats and species and therefore biodiversity, again, stay tuned for that series!
Eating less meat reduces energy consumption
This is all across the board from things like operating planters and combines during multiple harvests (because cows live a long time and require a lot of food), shipping the food, sometimes turning it into feed, keeping the lights and fans on the barns, medicating the animals (more shipping and producing). Not to mention that meat requires refrigeration which means more energy during shipping and storage in grocery stores and your home and so forth.
Plants are better for the air
Animals produce methane, it’s a natural occurrence, and cows produce some of the most methane of all creatures resulting in about 37% of the world’s methane emissions (of course from human activity, not by nature). A single cow produces 70-120kg of methane and there are about 1.5 billion cows in the world. “But if we all quit eating cows won’t they overtake the world?” Another common anti-vegan argument. No, they won’t. They will eventually balance themselves out and learn to live naturally again, probably. And, when cows roam, they don’t produce as much methane because they aren’t completely destroying ecosystems like they are in factory farms. Seriously, go watch Kiss the Ground! And, if you didn’t know, methane is roughly 23x more potent than CO2.
Not to mention, the more plants we plant, the more carbon we can sequester from the air. If we replaced all the cattle ranches with carrot farms or potato farms or asparagus farms, more carbon can be sucked out of the air every year than emitted into the air. Plants literally clean our air.
Your personal carbon footprint will be cut
Now, our carbon footprint as individuals should be taken seriously, but we do need to focus on changing corporations and businesses. But, something you can easily do is boycott factory farming. 51% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from animal agriculture from feeding them to eating meat and even eating their by-products (sorry vegetarians). So, meat-eaters tend to have twice the carbon footprint of someone who eats plant-based, especially if that meat-eater is someone who eats a Standard American Diet which is meat for every meal.
Overall, I’m not asking anyone to go vegan, especially overnight. But, consider it. Consider swapping out a beef burger for a plant-based burger one night this week. Consider making vegan-friendly minestrone instead of chicken noodle soup another day. If this still hasn’t swayed you, check out last year’s video about 30+ reasons to go vegan that don’t include for the animals.
Going vegan or just even a little more plant-based has such a positive impact on the planet and I encourage you to check out more of my resources to learn more about plant-based eating and get more inspiration from some of my favorite YouTubers/bloggers.
Thanks for reading! I appreciate your time, as always. Remember that your small changes have a big impact in the long run :)