The fossil fuel industry is the darling of the climate change movement and rightly so. You can see the pollution spewing from the exhaust of cars, trucks, and factories. A far more sinister culprit lurks right along with fossil fuels emitting nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas, at an alarming rate. It also has a huge carbon footprint. That villain would be the animal agriculture industry. Everyday thousands of acres of rainforest are cleared to graze more cattle. Thus far 91% of the Amazon rainforest lost is for meat production.
Ok then- why is there not much said about the animal agriculture industry and its effects on climate change? The short answer is that it doesn’t have the villainous appeal as the fossil fuel industry- It’s imbedded into our diets, people don’t want to change their dietary habits, and there’s the powerful influence of the meat & dairy industry lobby .
Here is a short list of facts. For a full list of facts with sources cited go here .
- Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 % of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation at 13%
>Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.
· Growing feed crops for livestock consumes 56% of water in the US.
· 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef.
· 477 gallons of water are required to produce 1lb. of eggs; almost 900 gallons of water are needed for 1lb. of cheese.
- 1,000 gallons of water are required to produce 1 gallon of milk.
· 5% of water consumed in the US is by private homes. 55% of water consumed in the US is for animal agriculture.
·Livestock operations on land have created more than 500 nitrogen flooded dead zones around the world in our oceans from tons of waste run-off.
·1/3 of the planet is desertified, with livestock as the leading driver.
·For every 1 pound of fish caught, up to 5 pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill including whales, dolphins, and sharks.
·Worldwide, at least 50% of grain is fed to livestock.
·82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries.
· A person who follows a vegan diet produces the equivalent of 50% less carbon dioxide, uses 1/11th oil, 1/13th water, and 1/18th land compared to a meat-lover for their food.
What can you do? Reduce or eliminate your consumption of meat and dairy. There are many online resources to help you get started such as Forks over Knives and What the Health. Watch the movie “Cowspiracy,” available to stream on Netflix. See the trailer below. Check out this New York Times article on plantbased eating for further information. Reducing your consumption of animal foods is the sincgle most important thing you can do for climate change now!