Veganism and plant-based diets have become a trend worldwide in the last decade. The link between animal agriculture and the loss of our rainforests is more important than you might know.
Going vegan means you stop consuming any product that involves animals in its productive cycle (e.g. killing animals for food or using them for cosmetics testing). When you decide to become vegan, you are helping both the animals and the planet.
A vegan diet has a significantly lower carbon footprint and requires much less land use and water resources than a non-vegan diet. In particular, going vegan protects the forests and shows that you are against deforestation and land clearing for animal agriculture.
Animal agriculture continues to be the key driver of mass deforestation and loss of forest biodiversity.
Every time you eat a plant-based meal, you tackle climate change and reduce your environmental impact on the planet.
In this article, I will tell you five reasons why shifting to a vegan diet is the best environmental decision you can make.
Animal products consumption is the leading cause of deforestation worldwide
The first reason why you should start a vegan diet is deforestation.
Forest ecosystems are a critical component of the world’s biodiversity. More than half of the world’s forests are found in only five countries: the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States of America and China.
Livestock production is the primary cause of deforestation and natural habitat loss worldwide. This activity requires enough land for the animals to live in and the crops these animals eat.
Livestock production, including crops farming, accounts for three-quarters of all agricultural land surface on the planet. This makes meat production the single most considerable anthropogenic land-use activity.
Large-scale commercial agriculture for cattle ranching and the cultivation of soybeans for livestock feed accounted for more than 40 per cent of tropical deforestation between 2000 and 2010.
Have you heard of forest fires in the Amazon?
According to different studies, over 75% of all deforested lands are now being used to grow livestock, pasture and feed crops (e.g. soybean). And most of the crops produced worldwide are used for animal feed.
For example, between 75 and 80% of all soy produced worldwide goes directly to these animals.
Suppose the trend of our meat consumption continues just as it is today. In that case, developing countries will need to expand their agricultural land base by 3 million km2 over the next 35 years to meet the world’s demand for animal products!
What’s the problem with deforestation?
The thing is that grasslands are a main organic carbon store. They store carbon released into the atmosphere when these areas are tilled for agriculture.
This means that deforestation not only contributes to climate change by removing the primary source of carbon dioxide (CO2) capture from our planet (trees and plants).
It also does so by releasing vast amounts of CO2 that these natural habitats have been holding for centuries.
Livestock is the single leading contributor to methane emissions
Climate change is a serious concern worldwide.
This phenomenon is caused by the earth’s temperature increase due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere.
We all know carbon dioxide (CO2), but methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas much more potent than CO2 (precisely 25 times more powerful). Furthermore, 53% of all agricultural methane emissions are caused by ruminant enteric fermentation.
Enteric fermentation is a process in the rumen of ruminant animals like cattle, buffalos, sheep and goats. Enteric fermentation contributes to 28% of all methane anthropogenic emissions worldwide.
Animal practices release large amounts of nitrous oxide (N2O)
Nitrogen fertilisers are widely used for animal feed crops.
In addition to this, there is a considerable percentage of inorganic nitrogen compounds in these animal’s manure. Thus, fertilisers used and animal manure production increases the amount of nitrogen in the soil available for microbes.
These nitrogen-rich compounds end up being released into the atmosphere as nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas 300 times more powerful at warming the planet than CO2.
Another problem with N2O generation in these activities is that this gas also depletes the ozone layer in the stratosphere, contributing to the ozone hole.
A vegan diet will drastically reduce your water footprint
Water demands due to population increase and droughts caused by climate change have brought water scarcity to many regions across the globe.
According to different studies, meat consumption significantly contributes to the rise in a country’s water footprint. This indicator quantifies the freshwater volume used to produce goods and services consumed by a nation’s people.
The contribution of meat to this indicator is linked to the number of processes needed to deliver this product to the consumer. In all these stages, product selection and inefficiencies take place. Therefore, the higher we go up in the product chain, the higher its required water content to make a 'meat' product.
For example, the amount of water needed to produce one ton of maise is 900 m3, while for one ton of beef, this value is a staggering 15500 m3.
Meat consumption is the leading cause of food insecurity worldwide
According to the 2019 FAO report, 25% of the world’s population is affected by moderate or severe food insecurity, which means they lack access to enough food to achieve a healthy and active life.
The environmental impacts of animal products are much more significant than those of plant-based ones.
Shifting to a vegan diet has a high potential for reducing our food’s land use, GHG emissions and freshwater use.
If we were all to change in that direction, it might allow more people to access secure foods.
When you decide to adopt a vegan diet, you are reducing your carbon footprint and improving land use and water resources efficiency.
All of this while promoting biodiversity conservation and preventing wild areas from being deforested.
And don’t forget, you are also making a decision that will impact the food availability for millions of people you don’t even know.
Is there a single better environmental decision you can make? I don’t think so. Be encouraged to make important changes to your lifestyle to reduce the demand globally for animal products. Advocate saving the rainforests by going plant-based today.
To learn more you can visit the Rainforest Alliance Website.
About The Writer:
Belén Silva is a Chemical engineer from Argentina. She started her freelance writing and environmental consulting career after working for many years in the automotive industry as an environmental engineer. She has a personal project of environmental communications that includes a blog, an Instagram account and a Youtube channel. You can read more from her on her website Idonella
Cherie Julie, Founder Of Travel For Change
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