Why we need diet change to save the world

Cow image

Segregating your litter and ditching the straw isn't the key to a healthier planet. We need a significant change: diet change!

It doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone that WOMB is advocating for conscious lifestyle. Slow down, think twice or even trice before you buy, exchange these single-use-water-bottles for a reusable one and thank no to a straw in your… Sex on the Beach (if people still drink that?). However, monitoring your consumption and reducing usage of plastic is not everything. Essentially, the biggest impact, negative and positive, on our planet that one can have, is through the food we consume on a daily basis.

A plant-based diet is definitely a better option for our planet than a meat-heavy one. But why is veganism a better solution? And why does it make a difference to exchange that beef patty with a bean patty?

Reason no. 1: The Carbon Footprint / Greenhouse gasses

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. [1] Emission of carbon-dioxide is one thing, but actually methane is 25-100 times more destructive, and has a global warming potential 86 times that of CO2 in a 20-year time frame. [2] But how does methane come into picture? Methane emission doesn’t come from machines or vehicles, it comes from… cow flatulence. And as giggly as some of us might get around this topic, it’s a serious one! Livestock pushed about 119.1 million tons of methane into the air in 2011 alone, and imagine how much that number has grown since then! [3]

Reason no. 2: Water resources

Farming and hence consuming animal products is very water-resource-intensive. Although statistics vary, it is safe to say that it takes at least three times the amount of water to feed a meat eater compared with that used to feed a vegan. For example, it takes 15,500 litres of water to produce 1 kg beef, contrasted with 180 litres for 1 kg tomatoes and 250 litres for 1 kg potatoes. [4] Animal Agriculture is responsible for 20% - 33% of all fresh water consumption in the world today, while in many areas of the world, freshwater scarcity coexists with hunger, poverty, and inefficient use of marginal natural resources, and drinking contaminated water kills roughly two million people around the world every year. [5] [6]

The livestock sector is also probably the largest sectoral source of water pollution. Slurry from cattle and other livestock pollutes groundwater, streams and rivers with high levels of nitrogen and phosphor, killing the fish and endangering the health of other animals. [7] 

Fun fact! Producing 1 liter of wine takes approx. 545 liters of water, while producing 1 liter of milk takes 1020 liters - more than twice as much! So… Cheers, everyone! [8]

Infographic of water required to produce different products, based on figures from    Water Footprint Network   .

Infographic of water required to produce different products, based on figures from Water Footprint Network.

Reason no. 3: Land occupancy & degradation

The Vegan Society arguments:

“The vast amount of grain feed required for meat production is a significant contributor to deforestation, habitat loss and species extinction. In Brazil alone, the equivalent of 5.6 million acres of land is used to grow soya beans for animals in Europe. This land contributes to developing world malnutrition by driving impoverished populations to grow cash crops for animal feed, rather than food for themselves. On the other hand, considerably lower quantities of crops and water are required to sustain a vegan diet (…)” 

Livestock systems occupy 45% of the global surface area. [9] With the growing population of meat eaters, the planet won’t be able to feed both increasing human and farmed animal populations. We will need more space for both humans, for the livestock itself as well as its feed, and with land degradation already caused by agricultural farming, the land is getting even more scarce. And what are we going to do in 30-years-time, if we, according to data from the UN, expect to be over 2 billion more human mouths to feed? [10]

Reason no. 4: Waste

Only in the US, 7 million pounds of excrement are produced by animals raised for food, every single minute. [11] As mentioned above, waste such as slurry eventually ends polluting our groundwaters, but production/agricultural leavings aren’t the only waste problem. Meat and dairy need packaging: for hygiene as well as practical reasons. When we think of vegetables, say tomatoes, once they’re picked, they can be put in a wooden box, be transported to the nearest market and sold directly to the customers. The tomatoes can stay in the crate for some time, direct sunlight won’t affect them much, quite the contrary. And now imagine what would happen to a carton of milk or a block of cheese left in the sun! Not only does dairy need packaging, but it also requires refrigeration (energy) to keep it safe for us to consume. Meat often comes in plastic-containing packaging, whether it’s pre-packaged or bought directly from a butcher. [12] A lot of waste connected to the meat and dairy industry is hence created on the consumer side.

Vegan grocery shopping

Reason no. 5: Major threats to our oceans, rainforests and wildlife

Let’s start with oceans, from where as many as 2.7 trillion animals are pulled each year. [13] It disrupts the natural ecosystems, and for every 1 pound of fish caught, up to 5 pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill. [14]

And what about “Earth’s lungs” - our rainforests? The leading causes of rainforest destruction are livestock and feedcrops, and 136 million rainforest acres cleared for animal agriculture. [15] Loss of rainforests causes disorders in whole Earth’s ecosystem - the planet is basically losing its lungs, the “organ” capable of (at least to some extent) helping to clean up the pollution from greenhouse gasses emission!

On top of that, up to 137 plant, animal and insect species are lost every day due to rainforest destruction. [16] Also, large numbers of wildlife are nowadays being killed to protect the livestock. [17]

Amazonas rainforest

We could have quoted more data for you. We could have listed far more examples and pointed out more scary facts. Because with meat and dairy consumption comes also a socio-political and therefore also an ethical issue. In countries where people starve, cows are fed to produce meat that’s being eaten by people in well-developed Western countries. [18] This data is widely available, no one is keeping it a secret, and yet many of us put our heads in the sand and act as if we weren’t the part of the problem.

We definitely are.

The good thing is though, that we can also become a part of the solution! So to quote one of the biggest change-makers and change-advocates in Hong Kong, Mana! Fast Slow Food: we need diet change, not climate change!

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Data quoted above comes from sources gathered by the COWSPIRACY project. Sources vary from UN databases, independent media research and scientific research.