In 2006, the United Nations reported that rearing cattle produces more greenhouse gases than driving cars. This report explained that at the current rate, breeding and raising cattle produces more greenhouse gases than all modes of transportation combined due to the high amounts of Methane gas livestock produces. This places animal agriculture as a direct and leading causes of climate change.
So what part of your dinner, and/or lunch and breakfast causes a long time increase in the global and regional temperature putting our earth’s diversity of life at risk? Well, it’s simple — just the animal part of your food. Not only does animal agriculture account for climate change, but it’s also at fault for deforestation, species extinction, water wastage, pollution and to a certain extent — continued hunger in third world countries. Let’s break it down.
- Deforestation; most forests, especially those in Latin America, are cleared to be used to breed and graze livestock. Because trees absorb carbon dioxide (a major greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere, cutting them down increases the volume of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.
- Species extinction; during deforestation, millions of species’ habitats are lost, which can result in their extinction or endangerment.
- Water wastage; To produce 0,5 kilograms of beef for your steak and chips, ± 1800 litres of water is required, to produce 3,8 litres of milk for your cereal, ± 3300 litres of water is required and to produce 0,5 kilograms of chicken to accompany your burger, ± 1770 litres is needed, this includes the water used to water the crops livestock eat and the water used to bulk them up).
- Pollution; Livestock faeces release toxic gases into the atmosphere, polluting the air and the breeding of livestock may cause fertilizer runoff, which takes place when rain carries fertilizer into waterways — polluting the water.
- Starvation; in third world countries, a large majority of grain is grown to be sold to first world countries and fed to livestock, as opposed to the locals. The world’s livestock consumes a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8,7 billion people — more people than there are in the world currently.
There is, however, a simple yet controversial solution to the problem that is animal agriculture; eliminating the demand of animal products, which will in turn eliminate the supply. By eating less animal products, there will be a domino effect of less livestock breeding, less greenhouse gas emissions, less deforestation, less species extinction and ultimately, a slower rate of climate change.
As many lights you switch off, taps you close or walks you take rather than car rides, the only effective way of combatting climate change is reducing your animal product intake, which will reduce your carbon footprint.