The Third Reason to GoVeg

One of the single most convincing reasons to adopt a vegetarian diet has just recently popped up.  Now, obviously this reason has been around for awhile, but it is just now being publicized.  What I‘m talking about is the environmental impact of an animal-based diet.   The first time I heard the connection between animal agriculture and global warming was in the report issued by the UN called "Livestock’s Long Shadow."  This one report sent the blogosphere (myself included) and news agencies into a writing fury about the environmental benefits of going veg.  Its message is extremely simple.  Going veg can help save the planet. 

When I decided to become a vegetarian in 1995, there were really only two widely stated reasons people chose this diet.  There was the animal welfare reason and the health reason, and it pretty much stopped there.  I imagine that there were more, but when people would ask why I went veg, they would only cover those two, and I didn’t really stop to investigate or explain any further. 

Things have changed. Today, with the global warming frenzy in full swing (it’s for good reason, but still a frenzy) the animal-based diet has come under scrutiny by many, including a number of environmentalists.  Now, there is a widely recognized third reason to go vegbecause you care about the environment.  The first two reasons alone are a compelling enough to make the change, but in the "Global Warming Age," vegetarianism has become much more socially accepted and encouraged, and just as importantly, its benefits are measurable on the local and global scale.

Each time we choose to go veg, we consciously make the decision to eat lower on the food chain, and therefore, more environmentally friendly, so going veg, mostly veg, partly veg or even one day a week can help.  Preserving the environment and the world we live in is not about deprivation.  It is about moderation and cutting back where we can instead of consuming where we shouldn’t.  It is about raising awareness as to how our behaviors impact the world around us and how simple actions can and do have major results. So tell your friends, spread the word…host a vegetarian dinner at your home.  In most cases, no one will miss the meat, and the impact of your action will be part of the solution instead of a contribution to part of the problem.


Go Veg, Drive a Hummer

Just kidding, just kidding!  This is the second installment of the ‘Earth Day’ series this week.  Today, we will take a look at one issue that I personally think needs to be added to our top ten reasons to go veg one day a week.  Let’s talk about gas.  Not the kind of gas that comes from eating bean burritos…the kind of gas that is responsible for global warming. 

At times it seems overwhelming just how much we hear about global warming lately.  The media is definitely focusing on it.  I am not about to complain though, because we need to hear about it.  

As an aside, yesterday my father and I were talking on the phone about how during the presidential elections two years ago, Global Warming was barely a blip on the radar, and other things took center stage (not getting into that).  We both agreed that in the upcoming 2008 election, a candidate will not stand a chance of winning unless they have a decent plan on what they’re going to do to combat Global Warming.  In my opinion,this a dramatic turnaround in politics in just two years.  I digress….back to the gases. 

Consider this:

  • Did you know that according to the EPA , cattle in the U.S. emit about 5.5 million metric tons of methane per year into the atmosphere, accounting for 20% of U.S. methane emissions?
  • One cow can emit around 600 litres of methane a day.1
  • U.S. cattle account for 19 percent of global methane emissions related to human activities, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.1
  • Methane has 23 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.  There just happens to be more carbon dioxide than methane. 2

These stats are only focusing on the methane that cattle from the U.S. emit from their bodies.  They do not tell the whole picture.  Other greenhouse gases are produced  "peripherally" to the animals themselves, such as:

  • Burning fossil fuel to produce mineral fertilizers used in feed production. (this is somewhere around 41 million tonnes of CO2 per year.)2
  • Methane release from the breakdown of fertilizers and from animal manure. (over 18 million tonnes of CO2 per year.)2
  • Land-use changes for feed production and for grazing. (somewhere around 2.4 billion tonnes of CO2 per year.)2
  • Fossil fuel use during feed and animal production.2
  • Fossil fuel use in production and transport of processed and refrigerated animal products.2

Animals and animal production literally produce tones of greenhouse gases annually.   All said, emissions from animal agriculture contribute more to global warming than all the cars and trucks on the planet.  And, global warming is just one of the issues surrounding the way we raise animals.  Other issues such as land erosion, water consumption, pollution, impact on biodiversity, etc., are not being considered here.  For more information on these issues take a look at the United Nation’s full report.  It is a bit lengthy at 400 pages, but considers most of the inputs and outputs of animal agriculture.

By going vegetarian one day a week, you can reduce greenhouse gases from animal agriculture by approximately 1/7th.  It just goes to show that a modest change can have dramatic effects.  It is nearly equivalent to owning a Prius, except that the benefits are realized immediately and it costs $30,000 less.  However, going veg AND owning a Prius….wow!

1.  Additive in Animal Feed Reduces Methane Emissions

2.  Livestocks Long Shadow, United Nations chapter 3

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