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.
Jay Wilde was born into the family farm with an environmentally-minded father who never engaged with business-like intensive farming such as the usage of artificial fertilizers and herbicides. He inherited a dairy farm in England in 2011, so initially he produced dairy goods, before moving onto organic beef. But in 2017, he and his wife Katja could no longer bear to send the cows to the slaughterhouse for what must be a terrifying death. They made headlines by rehoming the cows at an animal sanctuary, and the UK Vegan Society worked with him to switch to alternative farming practices.
Jay is now working with Refarm’d, an organization that works to give animal farmers a new business model that doesn’t benefit from the exploitation of animals. They helped him to make a smooth shift into a booming market that is the plant milk industry, enabling him to keep his farm with the remaining 17 retired cows. Jay and Katja Wilde spent time finessing their business model so that they could ensure producing oat milk was sustainable and profitable, while providing themselves with a cruelty-free source of income. While they had initially started producing organic vegetables, they found that a project producing oat milk was the ideal complement.
Geraldine Starke, CEO of Refarm’d, pointed out that the dairy industry is struggling, and this mostly affects farmers who don’t have a say on the price they sell the milk and therefore often sell for less than production costs, leaving them struggling to make it work. “I believe to help our farmers, we need to help them get out of this system. And that’s what we are trying to do at Refarm’d,” she said.
Seeing the need for change, more and more farmers from around the world are getting in touch with the organization. Under Refarm’d model, farmers continue feeding the population by providing a healthy and fresh, handmade product, made with local ingredients to customers local to them. The production costs are low and they help the farm over time to optimize their global costs so that farmers earn a better life with less effort. This shows a way for what the future of farming could look like.
Sir David Attenborough is urging people to go vegetarian to save species from dying out, and to produce more food.
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.
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.
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
It hurts to be sick, and animals are no exception. When animals are raised in factory farm conditions, they are usually crammed into small spaces, and held in very unhygienic conditions, such that diseases can run rampant. Sometimes these diseases spread from one factory to another causing a pandemic. Unfortunately farm animal disease pandemics plague our food system, destabilizing trade and markets and causing product shortages, and multiplying the amount of suffering that the animals themselves experience exponentially. Read more
Rising methane levels may be thwarting climate change efforts. A 2017 study attributes about half of the increase to cows and other ruminant livestock which produce methane as they digest food.
These animals host microbes in their stomachs, gut filling hitchhikers that help them break down and absorb the nutrients from tough-to-digest grasses. Those microbes produce methane as their waste, which wafts out of both ends of cows. The manure that cattle and other grazers produce is also a site for microbes to do their business, producing even more methane. Now consider that there are 1.4 billion cattle in the world. You can see why so much of the methane being produced is from livestock.
“Methane emissions are a big deal. About a sixth of the warming that we’ve had since the start of the Industrial Revolution has been caused by methane,” said Stanford University professor Rob Jackson, who chairs the international emission tracking organization known as the Global Carbon Project.
Methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a molecule of methane will cause 28-36 times more warming than a molecule of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. Recent data shows that methane concentrations in the atmosphere have risen from about 1,775 parts per billion in 2006 to 1,850 parts per billion in 2017.
So, one way to reduce that is to just stop eating beef, right? That’s what researchers near and far believe, including Paul West at the University of Minnesota.
“As an individual, one of the biggest effects that we can have [to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture] is changing what we’re eating to eating a smaller amount of beef,” said West.
Why stop there? we ask. To have the greatest impact, we all need to cut out animal products from our diets as quickly as possible. We can’t afford to only take small steps anymore.
The following is an excerpt from our book “Say No to Meat“, by Amanda Strombom and Stewart Rose, published by Healthy Living Publications. This book includes answers to all the questions you may have about becoming a vegetarian, and is invaluable to new and existing vegetarians alike!
How does the use of water to produce meat cause problems?
The meat industry is being blamed for largest ever ‘dead zone’, the size of New Jersey, in the Gulf of Mexico. A new report shows that pollution from feed suppliers and companies like Tyson Foods are pouring into waterways, causing marine life to leave or die. The meat industry, already implicated in driving global warming, soil erosion and deforestation, has now been blamed for fueling what is expected to be the worst “dead zone” on record in the Gulf of Mexico.
Here’s what’s happening. Pollutants flowing into waterways from agriculture and wastewater accumulate, where they stimulate an overgrowth of algae, which decomposes and takes up all the oxygen in the water. This results in hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, in the water, causing marine life either to flee or to die. When this happens the region of water is known as a dead zone.
The pollutants come not only from manure (Tyson alone generated 55 million tons of manure last year), but also from the runoff from farms that produce the vast amounts of feed necessary to feed the many millions of animals raised for meat. Included in this runoff are not only plant matter and eroded soil, but also the fertilizers used to grow them. In fact, 70% of all the crops raised in the United States goes to feed farm animals.
These pollutants make their way into rivers, lakes and streams and eventually into the Gulf, where they accumulate and ultimately kill off the marine life. But dead zones can be brought back to life. With the adoption of a vegetarian diet the pollution will be dramatically reduced, and the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone as well as other dead zones around the world can once again become teeming with life.
The report was issued by Mighty, an environmental group headed by former Congressman Henry Waxman.
In polling, 94% of Americans agree that animals raised for food deserve to live free from abuse and cruelty. Yet the majority of the nearly 10 billion farm animals raised each year in the U.S. suffer in conditions that consumers would not accept if they could see them. Most of our meat, milk and eggs come from industrial farms where efficiency trumps welfare—and animals are paying the price.
A factory farm is a large, industrial operation that raises large numbers of animals for food. Over 99% of farm animals in the U.S. are raised in factory farms, which focus on profit and efficiency at the expense of animal welfare.
While most Americans expect our laws to protect farm animals, the reality falls far short. Animals raised for food are among the least protected class of animals in our nation. Farm animals are not the only ones suffering because of these unnatural, inhumane conditions. Human health, the environment and farmers are being hurt by the intensive farming systems employed on factory farms.
The best way to help farm animals is to follow a plant-based diet. There’s never been more foods to choose from and saving the animals never tasted so good.