Eight years ago I decided to stop eating meat. There were many reasons for this, from improving my personal health to supporting animal rights. But one of the greatest impacts of eating vegetarian is the effect on the environment.
Meat production is incredibly harmful to the environment. It is a major drain on oil supply, is the primary source of greenhouse gases, uses immense amounts of land, causes deforestation, is a major water & air pollutant, increases risk of disease in humans, and is incredibly harmful to the animals themselves.
Animals are big!! They need A LOT of land, food, and water to survive. Over 80% of all agricultural land in the US is used for raising animals & growing food for animals. The plants that animals eat contain energy, but only a small fraction of this energy is transferred to meat. It takes much more land to grow enough meat for the average American diet than it would if we were eating more plant-based foods.
Furthermore, people are eating more meat than ever before, especially in the US. The rapid growth in how much meat we eat means we need more and more space for the animals. Studies from the Smithsonian Institute indicated that seven football fields worth of land is bulldozed every minute to make room for growing more animals. This land includes vast area of important ecosystems like the Amazon rainforest. While many people claim to “need” meat, the earth truly NEEDS these trees, rivers, plants and animals to exist.
Meat production also accounts for more greenhouse gases than all transportation combined! The gas emissions from producing 2 pounds of beef is equivalent to driving your car for three hours! Factory farms cause a lot of pollution which contains feces and bacteria from the animals which then contaminates the air and water supply. You’ve probably heard something about cow farts releasing tons of methane. It sounds silly but it’s true- the amount of toxic chemicals release in animals gas and poops has a remarkable impact on our planet. Because of the large scale of meat production, the levels of contamination are high enough to cause immune and neurological issues in humans. Yikes!
The list of ways meat negatively impacts the environment goes on and on an on. There is tons of information and some great books to learn more such as Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.
Your don’t need to be a crazy strict vegan to make a difference. Eating meat-free just one day a week can make a HUGE difference in your carbon footprint. You can also opt for locally grown meats to avoid supporting factory farms which are the main contributors to the environmental damage. Check my blog tomorrow for a great vegetarian recipe and more tips to help reduce your meat consumption!
And… Happy Earth Day!!! Don’t forget to enjoy your planet today and everyday! It’s a magical place.