I often hear yogis chant the mantra “Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu,” or, “May all beings everywhere be happy and free and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.” What better time to really consider these words than during the week of Earth Day, Arbor Day, and US Veg Week? The crimes against the environment committed by the meat and dairy industries on a daily basis are truly too many to count. I’ve summarized a few beefs, if you will, that I have with these industries, and some of the many reasons why I’ve chosen to be vegan.
First of all, raising livestock is a total waste of resources. Agricultural land can be put to better use than to raise livestock. According to a study published by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, 80% of all the agricultural land in the US is used to raise livestock and the crops that feed livestock, not people. A friend of mine grows corn for livestock, and I remember commenting to him that it must be nice to be able to grab a fresh ear of corn whenever he wanted. He laughed at this, commenting that his family’s corn wasn’t the corn I was thinking of, and that corn for livestock is essentially inedible to humans. Then take into consideration that if humans could directly eat the grain produced for livestock instead, the US alone could feed 800 million people in a world where 925 million people are starving (according to worldhunger.org and Cornell University).
Additionally, the number one thing we can do to prevent global warming is to go vegan. When I studied ecology in college, my professor taught us that methane is actually a greater contributor to global warming than carbon dioxide (CO₂), saying that if CO₂ was like a sheet covering the earth, methane was a thick down comforter. The good news is that methane doesn’t live nearly as long in our atmosphere. According to the EPA, the lifetime of methane in our atmosphere is 15 years, whereas the lifetime of CO₂ in our atmosphere can be as long as 50-200 years! One of the top three sources of methane in our atmosphere comes from domestic livestock. If Americans started to gravitate toward a more veg-friendly diet, we might actually be able to see changes in global warming in our lifetime. According to a 2007 article in New Scientist, producing just over two pounds of beef causes more greenhouse gas emissions than if you drove your car for three hours. Makes those eco-friendly light bulbs seem insignificant.
Finally, poop is gross and doesn’t belong in our water or air. Livestock outnumber humans in this country, and on factory farms (where the majority of meat produced for food comes from), there is so much waste generated by these animals, that it’s collected in lagoons, emitting toxic airborne chemicals that can cause immune and neurochemical problems in humans. To top it off, in 2003, the New York Times published an article stating that factory farms will circumvent water pollution limits by spraying liquid urine and poop into the air, creating mists that are carried away by the wind and are inhaled by nearby residents, who then get to suffer from a variety of ailments, from memory loss to mood swings. The EPA reports that about 80% of ammonia emissions in the US come from animal waste. This is because animals are often fed high-protein feed, which contains excess nitrogen, which is excreted in the urine and feces and then converted to ammonia during decomposition. According to the New York State Department of Health, exposure to ammonia can cause burning of the nose, throat, and respiratory tract, respiratory failure, and burns to the skin and eyes. And in terms of the planet, ammonia emissions can cause the depletion of oxygen in the water, which can lead to significant reductions in fish and animal populations; plus, ammonia deposition can actually harm other food crops, like tomatoes, cucumbers, and fruit cultures, according to an article published by Virginia Tech. And, according to the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, agricultural runoff is the number one source of pollution in our waterways.
The World Wildlife Fund published a report that indicates that by 2050, the Earth will no longer be able to sustain human life, unless we do something about it. Even the UN agrees that agriculture is one of the greatest contributors to pretty much every environmental problem facing Earth today. They also report that shifting our diet toward one that doesn’t consume as many resources or energy (aka a veg diet), is one of the main steps humans must take if we want to save the planet. I find this exciting: one simple step –eliminating animal products from my lifestyle –can help myself, animals, and the environment! There’s nothing more effective that we as a global community can do for the planet than going vegan. I’m guessing that the thoughts and the words of most of us already contribute to the freedom and happiness of all, but let me now encourage you to take that next step, and act!
– guest post from Tranquil Space member Kim DJ Alkimist Venetz!