-By Nicole Koedyker September 2014
I know that Lester Brown’s book Full Planet Empty Plates was more geared towards global population growth and food scarcity but it was interesting that he didn’t talk about the elephant in the room – meat.
The environmental impact of meat consumption on the planet is my number one reason for being a vegan. Someone said to me one day “you can’t call yourself an environmentalist and eat meat” and something just clicked for me. Brown threw out some good statistics about animal agriculture indicating the amount that consumption of meat products has grown in the past few years and why:
- “At least 3 billion people moving up the food chain.”
- “World consumption of meat climbed from just under 50 million tons in 1950 to 280 million tons in 2010, more than a fivefold increase.”
- “Consumption per person went from 38 pounds to 88 pounds a year.”
But he never really addressed how the impact of meat consumption on climate change, the ocean, rain forests, wildlife, and people.
Animal agriculture (19%) produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the Earth’s trucks, cars, trains, ships, aircraft, and any other form of transportation combined (18%) (UNFAO).
One quarter pound burger takes 660 gallons of water to produce (in other words, one hamburger is the equivalent to 2 months of showers).
Two acres of rain forest are cleared each minute to raise cattle or crops to feed them.
In 2012 the world population was about 7 billion people but doesn’t include the 70 billion farm animals that humans raise. The human population drinks 5.2 billion gallons of water and eats 21 billion pounds of food every day but the world’s cow population drinks 45 billion gallons of water and eats 135 billion pounds of food a day. (Cowspiracy)
Is anybody shocked yet? Well, let’s talk about why there isn’t progressive change towards reform policy.
- Many people aren’t aware.
- The government runs on animals.
The American government spends $38 billion each year to subsidize meat and dairy, but only 0.04% of that ($17 million) to subsidize fruits and vegetables. So that Big Mac you’re eating instead of a salad? Yeah, it’s heavily subsidized.
As a vegan I will often run into these common arguments: “Where do you get your protein? Your calcium?”, “But it’s more expensive to be a vegan”, “How do you know there’s a vegan in the room? Oh, they’ll tell you” are some of my favorite things people say. But let’s think about it in dollar signs…Each year, USDA-managed programs spend $550 million to bombard Americans with marketing campaigns that employ slogans like “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.” Each marketing buck spent boosts sales by an average of $8, for an annual total of an extra $4.6 billion in government-backed sales of meat, dairy, and eggs. The USDA, meat, and milk industry work together to convince you that meat and dairy are a NECESSITY in your life.
Okay, I’m getting preachy. If you want to learn more, there are some really great programs happening around the country and the world.
Meatless Mondays are a campaign to encourage consumers to go one day a week without eating meat and instead get creative with their meals. Here in Philadelphia, The Humane League worked with the city government to pass Meatless Mondays citywide. Of course, you won’t be arrested for eating a burger on Monday, but it’s a start.
Also, if you want to explore this specific topic of the animal industry being the elephant in the climate change war room, check out the new documentary coming out called Cowspiracy. It explores how environmental nonprofits like the Sierra Club and Surfrider Foundation are not addressing the impacts of meat in any of their campaigns despite addressing other environmental concerns. It should be pretty interesting.
What are your thoughts? Did I stir up anyone’s desire to argue (it usually happens). Anyone want to try out vegetarianism/veganism?