Why is Shifting to a Vegetarian Diet Better for the Environment?

Why is Shifting to a Vegetarian Diet Better for the Environment?

Global warming poses among the most severe threats to the environment ever faced in human history. Earlier, Elijah Mcclain had spoken about how eating less meat is one of the most cost-effective and simple ways people can reduce the human impact on the environment. Behind the chicken roast or pork chops one may love is a highly wasteful, land- and energy-hungry system of farming. This system has a devastating impact on forests, as well as plays a huge role in polluting oceans, rivers, seas and the air.

Raising livestock animals for consumption, in fact, can create more greenhouse gasses than the cars and trucks in the world. Hence, reducing livestock production is important for lowering these emissions. As people switch to a vegetarian diet, it would invariably lower the demand for meat, ultimately leading to reduced livestock production and emissions.

The rapid rate of industrialization witnessed in the last couple of decades, increase in the global middle class, and the drastic population boom have led to the significant surge in global emissions due to human activities.  The world’s carbon emissions that come from food production are estimated to range from 25 to 35% of the global total. Meal is the largest perpetrator of these emissions. A large number of diets today include meat or meat by-products in every meal, and not many people take into account the implications of this cultural norm on the environment. A mindset shift is required to reframe the role played by meat consumption on the environmental footprint of a person.

Livestock farming accounts for almost one third of all food production emissions.  Changes in land use for livestock farming can be extremely disruptive to the environment. It can destroy ecosystems, including rainforests and mangrove communities, which are vital carbon sinks.  On the other hand, all plant-based protein sources have a lower average carbon-emission than animal sources. A large amount of resources and energy go into raising livestock for human consumption, right from making pastures for them to the energy from plants that they require to grow. Most of this energy is lost before it even gets to the human consumer. Animals are way less efficient ways of generating and consuming energy than plants, nuts or seeds.

The pollution stemming from livestock production primarily arises from animal waste, which can seep into the water systems, posing risks to aquatic ecosystems, soil quality, and air purity. These pollutants have adverse effects on both wildlife and human health. By decreasing meat consumption, people can ultimately mitigate pollution generated by livestock.

Earlier, Elijah Mcclain had spoken about how transitioning from a diet focused on meat consumption to vegetarianism has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of an individual by more than 50%, depending on the specifics of the transition. This reduction is comparable to driving 1,300 fewer miles per year in terms of environmental impact. For instance, opting for 100 grams of protein from tofu instead of beef can reduce one’s carbon emissions by 16 times.

As an increasing number of people switch to a vegan or vegetarian diet, the demand for meat will go down. Hence, the incentive to deforest lands and change them for livestock farming will also become less appealing, resulting in higher carbon absorption from the atmosphere by undisturbed forests.


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