Environmental Vegetarianism: Are Meat-Heavy Diets Harming our Planet?

Environmental issue and global warming has never been a hot subject to me. I was recalcitrant, eventually hostile to the criticisms on my behavior from ecologist activists, happy to ‘point the finger” on people like me. I made up my mind to strongly object to the attitud whereby we are made individually guilty. I hated being compelled to introduce major changes in my lifestyle with little benefits.

I’ve recently been warned about environmental issue thru the amazing work done by intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen. “Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, and is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean “dead zones,” and virtually every other environmental ill. Yet it goes on, almost entirely unchallenged.” He says.

As Andersen approaches leaders in the environmental movement, he increasingly uncovers what appears to be an intentional refusal to discuss the issue of animal agriculture. Beyond revelations in the environment activists’ sphere, his film help me to understand that I can definitely do something without revolutionize my lifestyle.

The facts

Many people today are concerned about human civilization's impact on the environment. Most of the discussion surrounds topics such as the reduction of carbon emissions, over-reliance on fossil fuels, and development of cleaner sources of energy. Some environmentalists, like Kip Andersen, suggest that our eating habits also deserve more scrutiny, particularly diets which rely heavily on animals. These individuals claim that a vegetarian or vegan diet mitigates human impact on the environment by reducing our dependence on livestock.

The crux of the argument for environmental vegetarianism is that raising livestock for meat is an inefficient use of resources. Animals such as pigs and cattle require food of their own, and this requires land, water, and increased agriculture. Not only does raising animals for food require more resources, but people in developed countries rely more on animal products for their diets than do their counterparts in less-developed areas. This implies that developing countries around the world are likely to increase their own dependence on livestock as their standards of living continue to improve. It is estimated that global meat consumption will double by the year 2050.

In industrialized countries, raising livestock accounts for roughly 40 percent of all agricultural output, with feed crops for animals requiring 30 percent of the entire planet's arable land. There are also concerns that livestock overgrazing may be contributing to soil erosion, which is particularly problematic in drier climates where fertile land isn't abundant. Globally, livestock accounts for between 14 and 18 percent of all anthropocentric greenhouse gas emissions as estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization. Proponents of environmental vegetarianism argue that not only is this bad for the planet, but at current population and economic growth rates, it is simply unsustainable.

The solution?

Environmental vegetarians propose that by reducing meat intake in developed countries, particularly the United States and EU, the environmental footprint could be drastically reduced. Furthermore, this could have ripple effects; by reducing the amount of land and crops required for livestock, overall food output could be increased and thus help to combat malnutrition. The United Nations Environmental Project asserts that a worldwide focus on shifting to vegan diets may be necessary to solve the problems of food poverty and climate change.

While environmental vegetarianism may seem like a viable solution to these issues, not all are on board. Humans are natural omnivores, and it can be challenging for a person to get all the nutrients one needs from solely eating plant foods. Stricter vegan diets require even more discipline, planning, and care. Furthermore, achieving a global or even national-scale shift to a vegan or vegetarian diet from the natural omnivorous human diet will be challenging, if not logistically impossible. Some scientists have argued that the problem lies with our dependence on fossil fuels, and that a focus on diet is misplaced; without alternative energy sources, agriculture will be unable to sustain current population growth with or without environmental vegetarianism.

The truth is ..

There is no "silver bullet" solution to the environmental and demographic problems facing humans today, problems which are likely to get worse as the 21st century rolls on and populations worldwide continue to grow. However, if one is comfortable with, and physically capable of, adopting a more vegetarian diet, reducing its livestock consumption, then it may be one way the environmentally conscious can reduce their own impact on the planet.

Spreading guilt feeling is not an option, and is not effective. Promoting livestock consumption alternative as a realistic choice is a must, but we are not yet there.

About Kip Andersen film “cowspiracy’ : cowspiracy.com


Opened by Antoine Fournier, Head of ECM, Input and Output management, Zurich Insurance
Nov 19, 2015.

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Antoine Fournier Head of ECM, Input and Output management, Zurich Insurance
Nov 25, 2015

Some quotes from Cowspiracy

Demosthenes Maratos
The Sustainability Institute at Molloy college
"[Livestock is] the largest contributor to every known environmental illness : deforestation, land use, water scarcity, the destabilisation of communities, world hunger ... the list doesn't stop. It is an environmental disaster that's being ignored by the very people who should be championing."

Dr Will Tuttle
Environmental and Ethics author
"10.000 year ago, animals made up 99% of the biomass, and human beings only made up 1% of the biomass. Today, only 10.000 years later that is really just a fraction of time, we, human beings and the animals that we own as property make up 98% of the biomass, and wild free living animals make up only 2%. We're basically completely stealing the world, the earth, from free living animals to use for ourselves and our cattle, pigs, chicken, etc."

Dr Richard Oppenlander
Environmental Researcher
Author, "Confortably Unaware"

"91% of the loss of the rain forest [is] due to raising Livestock."

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