/' http-equiv='refresh'/> Vegan Outreach Lincoln and East Midlands: Veganism: The Environmentalist Diet


Veganism: The Environmentalist Diet

The social commentators over at Freakonomics, who apply impartial, economic rationality to social issues incredulously asked why many in the environmentalist movement obsess on the evils of coal, yet neglect the huge issues caused through our use of animals. The article is entitled Agnostic Carnvivores and Global Warming: Why Enviros go after Coal and not Cows and it certainly makes a fair assertion:

"Forget ending dirty coal or natural gas pipelines. As the WPF report shows, veganism offers the single most effective path to reducing global climate change."

Switching animal products makes little difference. Nor does being a Locavore:

"The evidence is powerful. Eating a vegan diet, according to the study, is seven times more effective at reducing emissions than eating a local meat-based diet. A global vegan diet (of conventional crops) would reduce dietary emissions by 87 percent, compared to a token 8 percent for “sustainable meat and dairy.” In light of the fact that the overall environmental impact of livestock is greater than that of burning coal, natural gas, and crude oil..."

Freakonomics conclude:

"I’d suggest McKibben, 350.org, and the environmental movement as a whole trade up their carnivorous agnosticism for a fire-and brimstone dose of vegan fundamentalism."

More than just a metaphor

Of course there is nothing new in this message, animal farming has been proven to produce higher levels of greenhouse gases than any other sector of industry, that includes every mode of transport combined; planes, trains, automobiles... the lot.

Cows especially, as ruminants, farmed for their meat and dairy produce a lot of methane, a gas more than 20 times more potent than the more commonly cited CO2. Often the human-caused greenhouse gas contribution from livestock is given as 18%, although one study suggests as much as 51%, as per This study by The World Watch Institute on behalf of The World Bank.

Non-ruminants such as chickens still consume vast quantities of grain. Often it takes eight to twelve kilos of plant protein to produce one kilo of animal protein. 60% of global grain production goes to farmed animals. With 925 million humans lacking enough food as we speak, needlessly breeding non-human animals into existence then feeding them this way surely represents a criminally, selfish act of negligence.

The grain is often produced in ecologically sensitive areas such as the cleared Amazon Rainforest, where 80% of the soya produced is used to fatten up farmed animals around the world, 85% of the total clearance is done so in order to make space for cattle ranching.

Meanwhile with 884 million people lacking access to clean water it takes 2400 gallons to produce one pound of meat. That's a total of 235 trillion gallons of clean water annually just to produce meat alone. Truly a food stuff of the self appointed "global elite".

Topsoil is being destroyed, previously fertile land is increasingly made barren and native plant species are going extinct. As are wild living animal species, pushed out of existence as this monolithic global animal farm spreads. Currently nearly one third of the earth's surface is covered by farm animals.

Dietary impacts

It's not just the big environmental groups who are afraid to rock the boat and offend their vastly omnivorous membership base. Former vice-president of the USA, Al Gore much vaunted for his impressive An Inconvenient Truth lecture and admirable missionary zeal in educating the public on the threat of climate change, failed to make one reference to livestock impacts during his entire film. In fact the only cows that feature in the documentary are those used to positively make reference to the Gore family business of cattle ranching.

The companion book did make clear the significance of animal product reduction and Al has since stated that: “It’s absolutely correct that the growing meat intensity of diets around the world is one of the issues connected to this global crisis – not only because of the CO2 involved, but also because of the water consumed in the process.”.

In the March of 2014 Gore confirmed he was now vegan, stating that: "Over a year ago I changed my diet to a vegan diet, really just to experiment to see what it was like," he says. "And I felt better, so I continued with it. Now, for many people, that choice is connected to environmental ethics and health issues and all that stuff, but I just wanted to try it to see what it was like. In a visceral way, I felt better, so I've continued with it and I'm likely to continue it for the rest of my life.

Buoyed by Al Gore's veganism, prominent UK environmentalist and journalist George Monbiot finally came down in favour of the position. This decision was based largely on his findings while researching the book Feral, which focused on rewilding. He rescinded his previous opinions that animal agriculture could be done sustainably and that there are better uses of the Lake District's Hills etc (one example being re-forestation) than allowing them to become "sheepwrecked" by the destructive, non-native grazers that are farmed by humans.

With the same problems regarding land use but touted for the health benefits of their milk and flesh, the niche market for grass-fed cows has found them to actually be worse environmentally than the individuals used within the ubiquitous feed lot system.

In 2006 The United Nations specialized organisation The FAO sufficiently understood the political imperative and concerned over issues of environmental sustainability and food security presented the report Livestock's Long Shadow, again confirming the wide, varied issues implicit to the industry.

The study's authors later made clear that more intensified factory farming would be required to meet demand, a suggestion that fails to consider the interests of the other animals who are being used or whether animal farming need take place at all.

Sadly with an ever growing human population and animal products occupying a place as a food of status and social climbing, the amount of animals farmed continues to rise. This is despite the evident truths regarding dietary impacts and the scientific consensus regarding anthropogenic climate change.

Domestication as a driver in species extinction
Paul MacCready, the founder and Chairman of AeroVironment and designer of the first solar-powered aircraft, has calculated the weight of all vertebrates on the land and in the air. He notes that when agriculture began, humans, their livestock, and pets together accounted for less than 0.1 percent of the total. Today, he estimates, this group accounts for 98 percent of the earth’s total vertebrate biomass, leaving only 2 percent for the wild portion, the latter including all the deer, wildebeests, elephants, great cats, birds, small mammals, and so forth.

Prominent film director and environmentalist James Cameron announced his veganism as an ethical imperative: "It’s not a requirement to eat animals, we just choose to do it, so it becomes a moral choice and one that is having a huge impact on the planet, using up resources and destroying the biosphere.”

“I’ve had an epiphany recently,” Cameron said. “I want to challenge all of you as people of deep conscience, people who are environment stewards of the earth and oceans … By changing what you eat, you will change the entire contract between the human species and the natural world."

Described as "the film that environmental organisations don't want you to see!" 2014 saw the release of Cowspiracy, a highly influential documentary that seeks to explore the ecological impacts of animal agriculture and why the big green organisations are yet to give the issue the focused importance it merits.  Louie Psihoyos, Oscar-Winning Director of "The Cove" said that "Cowspiracy may be the most important film made to inspire saving the planet." A must watch for the green-minded, director Darren Aronofsky called it "A documentary that will rock and inspire the environmental movement."

A plant-based diet just happens to be one of the healthiest ways of eating yet we continue to unnecessarily inflict suffering on other animals despite the catastrophic, detrimental influence it is having on them as individuals and the very sustainability of this one planet all species depend upon. Ecological concerns are yet another reason among many to go vegan, it's easily done and if you need any assistance do drop us a line...

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