Vegan for the Environment: What You Need to Know

If you’re thinking of becoming vegan, you may be asking yourself the question: what impact will you have on the planet if you choose veganism for the environment?

In this post we’ll be looking at the various aspects of a vegan lifestyle and whether you can truly have an impact by switching over to a plant based diet.

Our legacy as human beings, unless we change it, is one of destroying everything in our path. When you look back over history, no other creature has been responsible for so much destruction.

We’re living in a historical time which can go down in history as being the cause of the devastation of the planet as we know it – or as being alive at the time of change, when people rose up in rebellion against old standards and awoke to compassion.

With a (relatively) simple change to your lifestyle you can have direct positive impact on reducing that damage. Of course there are people who will disagree, argue with you even, but at the end of the day you have to make your own choice. Read the information available and weigh up the facts.

When I first starting investigating the negative effects of the meat industry on the planet, I was blown away by the enormity of it. Although there are many other problems also needing to be addressed, this is one we have individual power over. We have a vote.

Reasons to Go Vegan for the Environment (or to Reduce Meat in Your Diet)

There are many reasons why you might chose a vegan or plant based lifestyle, but the top three are:

  • to not support animal abuse and cruelty;
  • to improve health (reduce cholesterol, lose weight etc.);
  • to help reduce the devastating effects on the environment.
Marching to support going vegan for the environment - a sign reading there is only one planet

One of the most influential speakers about the first point – animal cruelty – and perhaps one of the most controversial vegan activists is Gary Yourofsky.

And if you’re interested in why I chose a vegan lifestyle you can read about being vegan and what it means to me.

In this post we’re going to look at the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industry.

Warning to Humanity Document

One thing that’s absolutely mind blowing – and  something which all of us should be aware of – is that in 2017, 15,364 scientists (no it isn’t a typo; that’s more than fifteen thousand scientists) signed a Warning to Humanity’ document which outlined the desperate need for a reduction in meat consumption in order to continue feeding an increasing population without more deforestation of the planet, loss of biodiversity and increasing greenhouse gasses, acidification, etc.

Is Part-time Vegan Enough?

Although I choose to be 100% vegan, you can still make an impact by reducing your meat consumption. And if you want to transition to vegan, it’s easier to do so gradually, cutting back your meat and dairy intake while learning more facts about the impact on the environment and on the animals, and on your health.

So the bottom line is, do what you can and become a conscious consumer. You can source vegan ethical companies which give back to the environment even if you’re not a vegan. You can also buy vegan footwear to help reduce the demand for leather (another industry which causes damage).

We can’t be perfect but we can damn well try to do whatever is within our capability. So whether you go vegan for a few days a week or whether you embrace a full vegan lifestyle, take time to feel good about the step you’ve made.

Environmental Impact of the Meat Industry

There are so many different types of farming practices (from intensive profit-driven to organic, for example) and the impact varies depending on each individual factor. But even the best method will have negative impact on the environment.

According to the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the top two factors leading to the extinction crises in 2019, were industrial agriculture and over-fishing.

Meat production is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gasses as well as being the driving force behind deforestation and loss of biodiversity. In poorer countries it’s also responsible for a large percentage of the existing water pollution.

It has been reported that a reduction in meat consumption would be and ‘essential’ component to help combat climate change.

Feeding of Livestock Facts

A much overlooked part of the damaging effects of the meat industry includes the grain which is necessary to support the huge amount of livestock that get slaughtered for the table each year.

If we had stayed with olden-day farming methods where a few cows graze a paddock and families ate meat once a week, sharing a small amount of meat between many family members, we might be looking at a very different picture today.

But these days we eat more meat per person than ever before, and on a more frequent, if not daily, basis. The commercial industry today predominantly revolves around intensive farming, driven by profit margins. It’s time we take action and put ethics above profit; put our survival above profit; put our integrity above profit – put aside our desire to eat meat every day and say ‘this has to change’.

Two cows facing camara

If we take the lowest, most optimistic figures for feeding livestock, the result is still six times higher (for producing greenhouse gasses) than for the equivalent amount of plant protein for humans (such as peas for example).

The land requirement for animals is quoted as being 36 times higher than the requirement for growing human plant food.

This situation has lead to losses of plant and of animal species, especially in Central and South America, in the rainforest. Furthermore, apparently an incredible 91% of all deforested land in the Amazon since 1970 was directly because of cattle ranching.

And according to an article in the Guardian, avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet.

In other words, going vegan for the environment will have a direct impact, and not just through reduction of greenhouse gases but also acidification, eutrophication and the (over) use of land and water for meat production.

Changing your eating habits will have a far greater impact than just focusing on your car or flight plans as both of these will only affect the greenhouse gases and fail to address biodiversity, wildlife, forestry, contamination etc.

Message written in raspberries saying Go Vegan

A Different Perspective on Going Vegan

‘Help yourself to a piece of our meat. It’s delicious! Loaded with antibiotics & hormones, it’s the result of animal suffering and is the top cause of deforestation & climatic change. But go ahead, Enjoy!’

LVL

I think if we were visitors to Earth it would be clear to us, and we would refuse. But it has become so normalised that we can’t see it anymore.

One reason is that we think we know what’s in it. We think we know how it’s produced. We think we know it isn’t harming anyone. We are mistaken.

Just as a kangaroo, when startled, will turn around and jump back in the direction it came from because it believes that journey to be safe, so we believe everything to be okay because it’s what we’ve always known.

But just because it worked in the past doesn’t mean it will work in the future. And just as the kangaroo can jump backwards only to crash into the oncoming car, so can we find that our pillaging of the world will come to a full stop.

When we read enough of the information enough times for it to really sink into our belief system, then we start to ask ourselves: why aren’t we doing more to save our planet? To save our health? To reduce animal suffering and live in a more peaceful world?

If you have trouble accepting this, ask your mind to imagine having to rear enough beef to feed 7.5 billion people on a daily basis, and maybe then you’ll start to see the enormity of the impact on the environment a little easier.

Feeding the whole of humanity is an enormous task which takes huge resources, and the impact on the world is more obvious when we picture the global quantities than when you imagine yourself nipping to the supermarket to buy yourself some dinner.

You Have Consumer Power

As an individual, you’re both the result of the food chain and the cause of the food chain and you can exercise your power as a consumer and help create greater demand for ethical products – or you can be the receiver of the market trends with your purchases. Choose or be chosen.

It’s not only about going vegan; we have so much to learn, about so many products, if we’re going to become conscious beings who are choosing their life instead of being chosen.

I know I include myself in this category: I have so much to learn (and to unlearn) if I’m to live in a way which fits my core beliefs. It’s difficult to get to the truth. It’s difficult to know what to change. It’s difficult to change habits when we’re not sure which ones to change. It’s just plain difficult, but that doesn’t mean we won’t try.

Every journey starts with one step. And every step is part of our journey. Let’s make our steps count.

Why Vegan – My Perspective in Brief

Basically I’m a vegan for every reason that exists: it is impossible for me to think of one single reason why I would not be vegan. My initial and principal motivation came from identifying with the animals . . . and from being horrified by the outright barbaric treatment of their lives.

If your animals are part of your family, it’s natural that you won’t want to eat those animals.

– LVL

Most people separate their feelings towards their own pets or family-animals from those bred for farming. They think cruelty to a pet is abhorrent whereas cruelty to a farm animal is necessary. For me that isn’t and never has been the case, so that would be my first motivation.

Sign saying I am vegan

Secondly, once I became aware of the treatment of the animals, both before the slaughter house and during slaughter, my conviction shifted even deeper.

I don’t judge others or preach to those around me that they should change their lifestyle, but I will actively help anybody who chooses to change because I believe we should learn to respect all living beings.

It seems to me that we’ve lived for years in a kind of trance in which we don’t ‘wake up’ to see our surroundings.

As we awaken we will naturally repel such things as profit over happiness, abuse over respect, taste buds over health etc.

After the cruelty aspect, next came my education regarding the additives which are used in the food industry. I am firmly against manipulation in order to turn a profit, and this is a practice which is considered so completely normal in our current society – and I abhor it.

How many people believe what they see on the TV? How many of us think that it is impossible that the authorities would permit the addition of deadly ingredients into the food chain? The answer is that most of us believe in this kind of ‘no way, that can’t be true‘ attitude.

Adding harmful additives to food so as to increase profit margins should be abhorred by every single living being. It should be recognised for what it is: unacceptable.

– LVL

You can cast your consumer vote to only buy ‘honest’ products with real ingredients which are natural and ethical.

Apart from the additives, I began to read about general health and wellbeing, which further reinforced my joy at being vegan and plant based. I eat simple primary ingredients and very few processed foods.

Probably the most recent and final piece of the puzzle came when I started to awaken to just how much impact the meat and dairy industry has on the planet and our environment. And honestly I can’t think of one reason not to support that.

If you haven’t seen them already and you’d like to watch some of the documentaries which have been created about the meat industry and/or a plant based diet, you can read our review of Cowspiracy: the sustainability secret, or watch the movies What the Health and Game Changers on YouTube.

And for useful resources, read our guide to starting a vegan lifestyle and our 10 tips for the vegan kitchen.

What’s your number one motive for being interested in going vegan? Is going vegan for the environment something you’re considering?

Sources & references for this article include statistics from wikipedia and the guardian

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