We are all trying to do our part these days: using more efficient light bulbs, recycling, buying low energy appliances, even preferring hybrid cars when we can afford them. Yet, few of us are doing the one thing that will have the greatest impact on the environment—changing our diets. The truth is that eliminating meat from our diet, or even drastically reducing consumption, will have a greater impact on greenhouse gas emissions than driving a Prius, or even using public transport during the daily commute.
While driving a more efficient car A study published recently in the prestigious scientific journal Climate Change concluded that “dietary GHG [Green-House Gas] emissions in self-selected meat-eaters are approximately twice as high as those in vegans. It is likely that reductions in meat consumption would lead to reductions in dietary GHG emissions.”
Another recent study, published in Global Environmental Change, found that there would be a twenty-five to forty percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions throughout the EU by drastically reducing meat consumption. They said that there was no downside, given that a plant-based diet was also the healthiest diet. They concluded, “Our study shows that a change towards diets with a lower consumption of livestock products has clear environmental and health benefits.”
All of this new research has been follow up to the alarming findings by the World Watch Institute in their report of 2009, suggesting that “Livestock and their byproducts actually account for 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG [green house gas] emissions.” [2009 World Watch Institute Report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow”] This report can be read in full on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations website.
Giving up meat and dairy products is not only beneficial to our health, and compassionate to the poor suffering animals, it is best for the environment as well. It has been estimated that beef production alone produces over seven times the carbon dioxide that growing vegetables does. Not only is meat production harmful to the environment through adding to the load of greenhouse gas emissions directly, but it does double damage since livestock production is the main cause of deforestation in the rainforests throughout the world. Over seventy percent of the rainforests of the world have been cut down and burned to make room for livestock grazing, as well as production of feed crops for livestock.
Eliminating meat from our diets is the most significant thing an individual can do to help sustain a healthy natural world. This idea may be new to you. That’s not surprising, it’s new to our leaders as well. But we don’t have the time to follow the usual course, and give these ideas time to become common knowledge. Drastic changes are needed in order to stop the damage that the American way of life is causing. Do a little research for yourself, and learn the truth behind these claims. Then do yourself, and our environment, a big favor—stop eating meat.