Category Archives: Environment

Paying for meat’s damage to the environment

The production of meat and dairy products are causing a fortune’s worth of damage due to their effect on global warming. While estimates vary, up to 51% of all greenhouse gases are said to be produced as a result of animal agriculture.

Here’s something to think about. What would happen to the price of meat and dairy products if we included the cost of the damage done by the greenhouse emissions generated from raising meat and dairy? It turns out that the prices would go sky high. It’s estimated that the price of meat would increase by 146% and the price of dairy would rise by 91% if we charged food production companies for their impact on climate change, while the cost of plant-based foods would increase by only 6%. As you can see there’s a big difference.

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The damage caused by fish consumption

Fishing and fish farming are damaging the ocean’s ecology. More than a third of the fish stocks around the world are being overfished and the problem is particularly acute in developing countries, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a recent report. “While developed countries are improving the way they manage their fisheries, developing countries face a worsening situation,” the FAO said. In 2017, 34.2% of the fish stocks of the world’s marine fisheries were classified as overfished, a “continuous increasing trend” since 1974 when it stood at just 10%.

This is not surprising since worldwide per capita fish consumption set a new record of 20.5 kg (45.2 pounds) per year in 2018. This compares with 9kg (20 pounds) per person in 1961. The scope of this problem can partly gauged by the fact that there are now over four million commercial fishing vessels combing the world’s oceans, depleting fish at a rate that’s considered much faster than is sustainable.

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Grass-Fed Beef – bad for us and for the planet

Recently, some people have been touting grass-fed beef as eliminating all the problems associated with meat, or as an equivalent alternative to going vegetarian. Don’t fall for it. Grass-fed beef is still bad for us, the environment and, of course, the cows.

Let’s take a look and see what some leading veg-authors have to say on the subject and then make a few observations of our own. Read more

Putting the carbon back where it belongs

There’s an extra benefit to the environment when we go veg that’s not often talked about. We’ve written in the past about how much global warming gases are emitted by the animal agriculture, but there’s more good news. Once we stop raising animals for meat, the land they were using, directly and indirectly, could be allowed to return to its natural state and start absorbing carbon.

The extensive amount of land used to raise meat incurs a carbon opportunity cost, given the potential for carbon sequestration through ecosystem restoration. Soil carbon sequestration is a process in which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and stored in the soil carbon pool. As the ecosystem recovers, the native plants absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, and store carbon in their roots, thus increasing organic carbon in the soil.

This would have a huge impact. Raising meat has had a particularly detrimental impact on land since half the land on earth is used directly or indirectly for raising meat. A recent study showed that if everyone in the world went vegan, we could remove 16 years of fossil-fuel-based carbon emissions from the atmosphere by the year 2050. That’s enough to really turn around the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and start to reduce the rate at which the climate is changing.

Another factor not talked about is that the mass of animals raised for slaughter on Earth now outweighs all wildlife by a factor of 15-to-1. This causes massive damage to world’s ecology and leads to a reduction in biodiversity with the extinction of many species. With the land freed up from raising animals, wildlife would have a chance to recover increasing the chances of species survival. This would provide a broad benefit to the ecology and help normalize the natural food chain, making the soil and plant life healthier, which could then absorb further carbon from the atmosphere.

So a global switch to a vegan diet would both reduce the emission and increase the absorption of greenhouse gases, and enable the ecology and especially the soil to recover, creating a virtuous circle instead of a vicious decline in the health of our planet.

Veg diet needed to prevent ecological disaster

Sir David Attenborough is urging people to go vegetarian to save species from dying out, and to produce more food.

Sir David Attenborough at the Great Barrier Reef

In a new Netflix documentary, A Life On Our Planet, the veteran naturalist says: “We must change our diet. The planet can’t support billions of meat-eaters. “If we had a mostly plant-based diet, we could increase the yield of the land”

The growth of animal farming worldwide and the rise in demand for meat and dairy are considered key factors in deforestation, which is threatening the extinction of many wild species in the food chain, from insects to elephants and big cats.

According to Attenborough, “Our planet is headed for disaster. We need to learn how to work with nature rather than against it.”

Sir David Attenborough is an English broadcaster and natural historian. He is best known for writing and presenting the nine natural history documentary series forming the Life collection that together constitute a comprehensive survey of animal and plant life on Earth. In 2017, Sir David revealed that he had stopped eating meat.

Learn more about the environmental cost of eating meat and animal products.

Why does animal agriculture use so much oil?

This is an extract from our book, Say No to Meat, the 411 on Ditching Meat and Going Veg.

It’s amazing how much oil is used to produce meat. In fact, agriculture uses 17 percent of all the fossil fuel (oil, coal and natural gas) in the United States, with meat production responsible for the majority of that portion. There are several reasons for this. One reason is that most animals are raised in so-called factory farms, where their feed is grown elsewhere and shipped in. These animals consume enormous quantities of crops – in fact about 70 percent of all the corn and 80 percent of all the soybeans grown in the United States are fed to farm animals. When we consider the fossil fuel used for meat production, we also have to take into account all the fuel used to manufacture fertilizers and pesticides, and to water, harvest, and ship those crops throughout the animal’s entire lifetime, as well as that required for the transportation and slaughter of the animals, plus the shipping and refrigeration of the meat. All that fuel adds up. Grass-fed animals use less fuel, but these animals use so much land that it’s not practical to feed America’s meat habit this way.

Going vegetarian saves oil. Plant based foods are simply grown, harvested, shipped and eaten directly rather than wastefully being funneled through a farm animal first. Much less refrigeration is usually required for plant foods than animal products. But the big advantage is that it takes only a pound of grain to make a loaf of bread, whereas it takes over 17 pounds of grain to make a pound of beef, requiring much more fossil fuel. We’re not kidding when we say that if you are still eating meat we would rather you drive your car to get places rather than walk! 

Professor David Pimentel of Cornell University explains it this way, “It is actually quite astounding how much energy is wasted by the standard American-style diet. Even driving many gas-guzzling luxury cars can conserve energy over walking—that is, when the calories you burn walking come from the standard American diet!”

So if you are an environmentally-conscious consumer looking to cut down on your use of fossil fuel, a non-renewable resource, switching to a vegetarian diet is a great place to start.

Poultry and Pollution

Chicken factoryWhen it comes to the environment, the public’s attention has been understandably focused on global warming. However, the water pollution problem hasn’t gone away. While many people are aware of the water pollution caused by raising cattle, few are aware that raising chicken is just as bad if not worse. Sure, a cow produces more manure than a chicken does, but there are far more chickens in this country. In fact, we now raise over 9 billion chickens every year compared to only 95 million cows.

In addition to the water pollution that results from agricultural runoff from fertilizer while raising feed crops for all those chickens, the waste products from raising chickens cause an enormous amount of pollution. In fact, chicken manure is especially degrading to waterways because it contains 2 to 4 times more pollutants (particularly nitrogen and phosphorous) than the manure of other types of livestock and can also have disastrous effects on water and soil quality.
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Farm to Fork Strategy encourages plant-based diets

Cows eating

The European Commission (EU) recently published a “Farm to Fork Strategy” which aims to encourage a shift toward plant-based diets. The plan proposed that $11 billion be used for research into sustainable food sources, including meat substitutes and other plant-based protein foods.  This provides a major commercial opportunity for Europe to encourage these industries as part of the economic recovery from the Covid-19 recession. Read more

Crying over the Cryosphere

Ice melting

The cryosphere is under attack! Most of us rarely come into contact with the cryosphere, but it is a critical part of our climate system. The term refers to the frozen parts of our planet – the great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, the icebergs that break off and drift in the oceans, the glaciers on our high mountain ranges, our winter snow, the ice on lakes and the polar oceans, and the frozen ground in much of the Arctic landscape called permafrost. Read more

Four factors damaging the earth

earth-day-2020-headerEarth Day is coming up on April 22 so this is a good time to remind ourselves of how a plant-based diet can help heal the earth, since raising meat is such a big driver of the environmental crisis. The major concerns are as follows:

Methane from cattle pie chart1. Climate Change

First and foremost, global warming! According to a UN report, raising meat causes more greenhouse emissions than all the cars, trains, trucks, boats and ships in the world put together. Livestock and their byproducts actually account for 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG [green house gas] emissions.” So by reducing demand for animal products, we can do a lot to reduce the rate of global warming. Read more

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