A Guide to Vegetarianism and the Planet
“[T]hose who claim to care about the well-being of human beings and the preservation of our environment should become vegetarians for that reason alone. They would thereby increase the amount of grain available to feed people elsewhere, reduce pollution, save water and energy, and cease contributing to the clearing of forests…” – Peter Singer, Animal Liberation, 1990.
To better understand the various environmental benefits that come with a vegetarian diet, it is necessary to grasp some basic facts. Here are the answers to commonly asked questions about vegetarianism in relation to the environment.
Does Being a Vegetarian Have Any Bearing On The Environment?
Yes. An increase in global temperatures, rising sea levels, melting of icecaps, and shifting ocean currents can be traced to changes in climate, a major risk facing generations to come.
Does Animal Waste Contribute To Water Pollution?
Yes. The livestock sector is a key player in increasing water use, accounting for over 8 percent of global human water use, mostly for the irrigation of feed-crops. It may be the largest source of water pollution, contributing to eutrophication, “dead” zones in coastal areas, degradation of coral reefs, and antibiotic resistance. The major sources of pollution are from animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, fertilizers and pesticides used for feed-crops, and sediments from eroded pastures.
Which Causes More Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Rearing Cattle or Driving Cars?
Rearing cattle. According to a report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent—18 percent—than transport.
Can Changing Your Diet Really Have An Impact?
Our environment is a complex system that is constantly evolving. People may argue a multitude of reasons for the drastic changes in weather patterns we are now experiencing, but science and statistics support the claim of the agricultural sub-committee that livestock is a leading cause of climate change and resource depletion.
With more than 1.7 billion animals used in livestock production worldwide, occupying more than ¼ of the Earth’s land, we can recognize that sector is responsible for approximately 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Much of our world’s pastureland is degraded by grazing or feed production, eliminating forests and polluting the environment with fertilizers, pesticides, and fossil fuels.
Switching to a vegetarian diet reduces one’s ecological footprint, and is currently the simplest and easiest way to change the course of our environment’s future. In fact, the American Diabetes Association (ADA), now sanctions Vegetarian diets.