There are probably a million reasons to try a vegan diet, and it has countless benefits for a variety of different people. But, I would like to level with the people who cling to steak like it’s a life preserver in the middle of the ocean … because I was one of them. If you had asked me last year if I would even consider going vegan, I would have laughed in your face. “How ridiculous! But, bacon! It’s too difficult! (Insert another pompous, uneducated comment here).” I did not want to face reality, I liked my little bubble where burgers came extra-greasy and guilt-free.
Then Before the Flood comes out, and I had no idea what I was in for. I had been walking through life with blinders on, calling myself an environmentalist when I hadn’t even bothered to do any research on the leading causes of climate change. But, moving forward I could not go back into my blissful bubble with any peace of mind in who I was and how I lived. After doing the research and watching more documentaries, I was convinced. I needed to go vegan if I gave any f*cks about Mother Earth.
More about my lifestyle epiphany can be found in this post.
At this point, it is safe to say that if you are a person who doesn’t care about our planet, or anyone else living on it, then there is no information here to change your mind. Hopefully, this applies to no one.
All information was found here, unless stated otherwise. Since this is more or less a condensed version of all the facts, you can find a more visual and stimulating look at this information by watching Cowspiracy on Netflix.
With that said, let’s get down to the facts.
⅓ of the land in the world is used to raise animals for consumption, with 2-5 acres used per cow. This causes animal agriculture to be the leading factor of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, habitat destruction, and desertification. 91% of the destruction in the Amazon is due to raising livestock, totaling 136 million acres. Land required to feed 1 person for 1 year:
Vegan: 1/6th acre
Vegetarian: 3x as much as a vegan
Meat Eater: 18x as much as a vegan
2. Food Resources
The world is currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people, and yet we still have a hunger crisis. That’s because 82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are in turn eaten by western countries. Worldwide, at least 50% of grain is fed to livestock. Even in the U.S., where there are still people going hungry everyday, we cannot feed them because we are using nearly half of our land to feed or raise animals.
3. Water Usage
Water consumption from animal agriculture ranges from 34-76 trillion gallons annually. Globally, it is responsible for 20-33% of fresh water usage. In the U.S. alone, growing feed takes about 56% of our water supply. And finally the most famous statistic …. drumroll, please…. the amount of water needed to produce 1 lb. of beef reaches around 2,500 gallons (conservatively), 477 gallons per 1 lb. of eggs, 900 gallons per 1 lb. of cheese, 1,000 gallons per 1 gallon of milk. It takes 3,500 liters of water to produce one kg of rice, while producing one kg of beef requires 15,000 liters of water*.
4. Greenhouse Gases
18% of greenhouse gas emissions comes from animal agriculture, and livestock and their byproducts are responsible for 51% (32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year). This can be compared to the 13% worldwide greenhouse gas emissions coming from the combined exhaust from transportation. Not only that, but these emissions from animal agriculture are expected to increase 80% by 2050, along with the energy related emissions calculated to increase 20% by 2040. Every day, cows can produce up to 150 billion gallons of methane, a gas more destructive than CO2 to the environment. Reducing these emissions would reap near immediate benefits.
5. Pollution and Oceans
In the U.S. livestock produce 116,000 lbs. of waste per second. Livestock operations on land have created more than 500 nitrogen flooded dead-zones around the world in our oceans. 3/4 of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted and we could see fishless oceans by 2048. For every 1 pound of fish caught, up to 5 pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill.
6. Individual Impact
A person who follows a vegan diet produces the equivalent of 50% less carbon dioxide, uses 1/11th oil, 1/13th water, and 1/18th land compared to a meat-lover for their food. Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, and 20 lbs CO2 equivalent. 1.5 acres can produce 37,000 pounds of plant-based food. 1.5 acres can produce 375 pounds of beef
7. Domino Effect
After making this life-changing decisions, I needed some guidance. I started looking at vegan bloggers for recipes and helpful tips for transitioning from omni to veg. Then, I found the zero waste and minimalist movements. See, it only takes one step in this direction to open the door to multiple changes in lifestyle and habits. I began with seeking out other vegans, and they just so happen to be zero wasters, or minimalists, or both! It only makes sense if I went vegan for environmental reasons that I would be interested in reducing my consumption of single-use plastic and unnecessary waste contributing to climate change and pollution.
So, I implore you all to take one small step, and see where it leads. Whether it be switching from dairy milk to almond milk, or from plastic produce bags to cloth ones, every little bit helps! Moderation of harmful habits is better than nothing at all.
What changes have you made to help the environment? Why did you go vegan? Share your inspirational stories!
*Cleveland, D. (2014). Balancing on a Planet : The Future of Food and Agriculture (California studies in food and culture ; 46). Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press.