It is an honor to share the following post with you. It was written by Chris Picciuolo, a friend of mine from the environmental club at North Central College. We also had a few classes together there. I know Chris to be a person of deep integrity and dedication to his ideals. He agreed several months ago to write this post for the blog, and I am so excited to share it with you now! It is with the deepest respect for Chris and his choice to live a low-carbon impact life through his vegan diet, that I share this post with you.
I know objectively that veganism and vegetarianism are the best choices when it comes to our diet impacting our planet. However, for my own reasons I cannot live that lifestyle. It is far more impactful and respectful I find, to honor the voice of someone who makes a positive choice every day for our planet. Here is Chris’s post and his words. Please be respectful in your comments or I may delete your post. However, as always, I welcome thoughtful respectful discussion.
I’ll start this out by saying you’ve found the vegan. Now that we have that out of the way, veganism is not for everyone. Native peoples and the low-income areas across the world are just some examples of instances when the complete eradication of animal products is not exactly humane or possible.
Having said that, I’m not going to delve too deep into the moral case for rejecting the status quo’s consumption and exploitation of animals. I’m here to talk about the environment.
Mainstream veganism is often mistaken for a plant-based diet, which is accidentally vegan and coincidentally much better for the environment than vegetarian diets or diets with moderate to high animal consumption. When we argue with a vegan on the Internet, we often wonder why they even bother abstaining from eggs or dairy because we don’t think the animals suffer in any way. Perhaps we just don’t know how much waste is produced in the animal agriculture industry because we haven’t wondered that either.
The egg industry is certainly guilty of a little “poke” at both. The truth is male chicks don’t lay eggs and, therefore, have little value to the egg industry. In fact, around 260 million are killed each year in a grinder upon hatching. Not only is this not humane but it creates a lot of waste. United Egg Producers has made the commitment to stop this practice by 2020.
If you aren’t the type of person who loves animals but you happen to really love the environment, perhaps you should know that every minute, animals raised for food in the US produce 7 million pounds of excrement. That one hurts to know, especially because we know that methane is 25-100 times more destructive than CO2 and has a global warming potential 86 times that of CO2 on a 20 year time frame.
While many couch environmentalists have boasted about saving water by showering less, perhaps they are still contributing to water waste in ways that may not be obvious at first gulp.
What we eat is a touchy subject, and not everyone is ready to hear about the negative consequences of consuming our favorite foods. When I heard it through the echo chamber that it requires 23 gallons of water to produce a gallon of almond milk I was temporarily disheartened to the core. I found out later after doing a little digging that it takes around 30 gallons of water to produce a gallon of cow’s milk.
Crops like alfalfa and soy may take a lot of water to grow, but the crops are also being fed to the animals that we eat, who also require water to survive. At least 50% of grain is fed to livestock globally. Global animal production requires about 2422 Gm 3 of water per year, with most of the total volume of water (98%) being the water footprint of the feed for the animals. It should be known that growing feed crops for livestock consumes 56% of water in the US alone.
Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction. Just because we don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. There are more inconvenient truths than our need for speed on the road or our endearing commitment to recycling.
For instance, Tyson Foods Inc. and its subsidiaries dumped 104 million pounds of pollutants into waterways from 2010 to 2014 – the second highest volume of toxic discharges reported to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) during those years. Substantial portions of Tyson’s discharges are nitrate compounds, which can contribute to algal blooms and dead zones.
We have a finite amount of freshwater to drink and we have a finite amount of fish to eat. Our oceans could be fishless by 2048. Forget fish as food, fish play an important role in maintaining a balanced ecosystem. In the U.S., fishing in general can seen as a harmless hobby or means of food for a quick meal. However, large-scale fishing, just as we see in factory farming, can cause many problems to our environment.
Attention to detail and concern for the lives of animals comes just about last when mass-producing for agriculture. Environmentalists should know that for every pound of fish caught, up to five pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill.
Fans of saving the rainforest and Ferngully are in for a real treat as you’ll learn that animal agriculture is responsible for up to 90% of Amazon destruction. You probably already knew this, but you didn’t know-know it: up to 137 plant, animal, and insect species are lost every day due to rainforest destruction.
The environmental impact of animal agriculture on our Earth is astonishing, to say the least. Consuming animals and their bi-products directly affects our environment whether or not we see it or want to admit it. That delicious bacon came at a price that your wallet may not have known. Those eggs you got on sale on the cheap were that cheap for a reason. It is important to keep in mind that it is easy for many of us to live healthy lives without contributing to the animal agriculture industry as innovations in food science are making the transition to a plant-based diet (and vegan lifestyle) a lot easier.