054 Understanding Animal Consumption and the Environment
When speaking of the environmental impact of animal consumption, it’s easy to get lost or overwhelmed with the stats and numbers but miss the bigger picture. The girls walk through how to have these conversations without needing to sight specific numbers.
In This Episode
The girls wade through the facts around how animal consumption impacts the environment and make the connections so that you can have conversations with omnivores on this topic without getting lost in the endless statistics.
Animal agriculture and it’s by-products are the #1 producer of greenhouse gas emissions. There are some conflicting statistics floating around out there as to what percentage – ranging from 18-51% – but all reports agree that animal agriculture is #1.
The discrepancy is because the initial report by the United Nations reportedly underestimated or didn’t account for livestock related factors like methane, respiration and land use, or they assigned those factors to other sectors incorrectly. A respected US thinktank, the Worldwatch Institute, published the higher estimate.
Cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day, roughly equal to the amount put out by the natural gas sector. Methane is far more destructive (25-100 times) than carbon dioxide on a 20 year timeframe. The good news is it dissipates more quickly than C02, so if we stopped producing it, the effects of it would heal relatively quickly
Livestock covers 45% of the earth’s land mass. Think about that. Nearly half of all the land on earth is covered in animals raised for food.
Animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of rainforest destruction, for livestock and feed crops. So, whenever someone talks to you about rainforest devastation, let them know that that land is often cleared to raise animals to be eaten. And when it’s not? A tremendous amount of land is used for crops to feed livestock.
Livestock is the leading driver in land desertification – land that has lost all topsoil and fertility. Desertification is caused by mono crops grown to feed livestock and by livestock grazing.
Grassfed cows are not a sustainable option. It takes 2-20 acres to support one cow. They graze for longer, requiring massive land resources as well as producing more methane.
Oceans / Water
Fishing is absolutely devastating to our oceans.
¾ of the earth’s fisheries are exploited or depleted – we could see fishless oceans by 2048
About 2.7 trillion animals are pulled from the oceans every year – for every 1 pound of fish caught, there’s about 5 pounds of by-catch, a lot of which just dies or is discarded. For 1 pound of shrimp, it can be as much as 10 to 20 pounds of by-catch.
Fishing vessels, lines and nets are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of sharks, whales, dolphins and seals every year
Animal agriculture makes up 80-90% of US water consumption. All the short showers and un-watered lawns can’t make a dent compared to our food choices.
Wildlife / Endangered Animals / Hunting
Government sanctioned hunting and eradication programs are largely to kill off predatory animals in an area who may, or may not, be killing livestock. So wolves, cheetahs, coyotes – killed to the point of endangerment in order to protect ranchers’ investment in their cattle, sheep and pigs.
Rainforest destruction for livestock and crops, kills over 100 species of animals, insects and plants each DAY.
Bottom line: animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.
Links and Information
- 10-Year Study Shows Plant-Based Diet Slashes Cancer Risk (VegNews)
- Customers Boycott Gourmet Burger Kitchen Over Offensive Anti-Vegetarian Ads (Metro)
Mentioned in this Episode
- Animals Should Be Off The Menu (Intelligence Squared Debates) – Best Vegan Speech EVER by Philip Wollen
- Australia Day Lamb Advertisement Enlists Lee Lin Chin To Promote Eating Lamb On January 26 (Huffington Post)
- Cowspiracy Facts – Full list of facts mentioned in this episode, plus many more, with links to resources
- Meatonomics – by David Robinson Simon. GREAT information about the environmental impact of animal consumption, particularly good information on fishing.