These days, everyone is aware of the negative effects of carbon dioxide on the climate. But did you know that methane and nitrous oxide, two other greenhouse gases, are up to 296 times more destructive than carbon dioxide?1 The number one source of all three gases is the billions of chickens, turkeys, pigs, and cows raised for food around the world. According to the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for more global warming than all forms of transportation combined.2
In fact, switching to a vegan diet saves 1.5 tons of greenhouse gases a year, far more than trading in your regular car for a hybrid.3 One thing is for sure: eating vegan foods three times a day is way cheaper, more eco-friendly, and more delicious than buying that Prius!
At any given point, there are billions of animals being raised for food. Every minute, these animals produce 7 million pounds of excrement in the U.S. alone.1 This waste is often stored in untreated manure “lagoons”2 that are sprayed into the air as fertilizer, leading to a number of health issues for farm workers and rural community residents.
These farms also produce dust and particulate matter that carry germs, viruses, and even trace antibiotics to nearby communities.3 Exposure to many of those gases can lead to a number of health problems for farm workers and community residents, from bronchitis and asthma to headaches, immunological diseases, even death.
The human population has grown rapidly over the last 100 years, as has our appetite for animal products. In order to feed billions more people, vast tracts of forests have been cleared to create pastures for cattle and other farmed animals. These forests are home to thousands of species who, after losing their home, suffer, decline, and sometimes go extinct. For instance, animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest,1 where 110 plant, animal, and insect species are lost every day dues to habitat loss.2
As the pastures become overgrazed, the pastures are plowed under and turned into animal feed cropland. This loss of plant cover accelerates soil erosion and sweeps good soil into the rivers, leading farmers to start the cycle over again with fresh land from forests.3
Throughout this process, wildlife suffers as millions of birds, deer, and other animals are squeezed out of their home or killed for “interfering” with animal agribusiness.
When you see meat and dairy products on the shelves at your local grocery store, odds are you’re not thinking of the long, resource-intensive process of how those items arrived on the shelves.
The long process involves fertilizing animal feed, transporting that feed to farms, transporting animals from breeding facility to farm to the slaughterhouse to the packing plant, and then packaging and transporting the final product to its destination.
This process is so extensive that transporting meat and dairy products to market accounts for 5-10% of all fossil fuel consumption in the developed world.1 Just by going vegan, you can produce 50% less carbon dioxide and use 1/11th the amount of oil.2,3
The meat and dairy industries combined use nearly ⅓ of all the freshwater in the world today.1 Just one hamburger requires 660 gallons of water to produce—the equivalent of 2 months’ worth of showers!2 The industry is the leading contributor to water pollution, which depletes our water supply as the polluted water cannot re-enter our system.
Waste and runoff from farms in the form of pesticides, antibiotics, and animal waste enter our water supply, rivers, lakes, and oceans.3 This runoff travels downstream and destroys aquatic ecosystems, leading to ocean “dead zones” that can spread up to the size of Massachusetts.4