Sahale Greenwood and Bailey Mckittricks
The Santa Clara
February 14, 2019
In addition to personal health benefits, choosing vegan options also helps the environment. The meat and dairy industries contribute to increased pollution and wastefulness of resources. These negative effects can be relieved with decreased demand of meat and dairy products, which can be made possible by a vegan diet.
The livestock food industry has become such a large production that its burden on the environment is becoming deadly for some ecosystems.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a report in 2014 saying that livestock operations on land have “created more than 500 nitrogen flooded dead zones around the world.” These oceanic dead zones do not have enough oxygen and nutrients to support marine life, killing an entire ecosystem and causing a domino effect on the entire marine food chain.
Meat and dairy industries also consume a lot of energy, contributing to constantly rising greenhouse gas emissions and thus, pollution levels. Livestock production is a lengthy process requiring land, water and food that could be put to more sustainable uses. Additionally, meat and dairy products need to be shipped, refrigerated and processed at a slower speed than plant proteins.
The livestock industry also pollutes our air with methane gas from the animals and carbon dioxide emission from the transportation industry surrounding meat and dairy. Veganism offers a way to purify our air by cutting down on those pollutants.
In addition to pollution, livestock industries are more wasteful with finite resources such as water, food and land. According to the Fourth National Climate Assessment of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, while only five percent of the water consumed in the U.S. is from private homes, an astonishing 55 percent is used for animal agriculture. If people were to make the choice to go vegan, they would be using 100 to 200 times less water per pound of protein by supporting the growth of plant food instead of animal food according to Global Citizens.
The livestock industry also uses an average of 700 million tons of food to feed their livestock, food that could be feeding starving populations should plant-based diets become more popular, according to Global Citizens. This issue is growing in importance as the earth’s population is expected to surpass 9.1 billion by 2025, which will force us to face the increasing reality of world hunger.
In terms of efficient and non-sustainable land use, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has three major concerns. The first of these being that producing animal protein is usually less efficient than producing plant protein. With populations growing, it is important to be conscious of industries infringing on a limited supply of desirable land.
Most livestock, especially ones that take up large amounts of space, are often found in places with policies that allow for disturbing amounts of deforestation and land degradation, further damaging our earth and its ecosystems.
Lastly, the U.N. report says “intensive livestock production tends to cluster in locations with cost advantages (often close to cities or ports).” Since the price of land is high, the industry looks to cut corners and avoid paying the additional price of the land needed to recycle waste from the livestock, leading to nutrient overloads.
If after reading all this, in addition to considering animal ethics, you still can’t push yourself to completely give up those foods you have always loved, don’t feel bad because I couldn’t either.
Going vegan is challenging, even knowing all of the benefits. However, if you can’t completely give up animal products, it is important to remember the health benefits a vegan choice means for you and for the environment. Making a choice to slowly incorporate vegan meals into your days, at whatever intensity you can manage, is doing a lot of good. So if you can’t go vegan, don’t. Go partially vegan with me because every bite counts.
Sahale Greenwood is a sophomore political science and communication major. Bailey Mckittrick is a junior political science major.