The Issue: The Planet

Why Eat Plant-Based? For The Environment…

The Union of Concerned Scientists equates not eating meat as the second most important thing you can do to save the environment. They put not driving a car as first, indicating carbon emissions from the world’s cars as the major culprits of global warming.

This is incorrect. Animal agriculture is the primary cause of global warming.

Analysis by environmental researchers at World Watch Institute state that animal agriculture accounts for 51%, not 18% as previously thought, of annual greenhouse gas emissions. (November/December 2009 World Watch)

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2006 report “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options”, did not take into account: animal respiration, land use, under counted methane, fluorocarbons used for cooling farmed animals, cooking their meat, factory-farmed fish, the production, distribution and disposal of animal agriculture byproducts leather, feathers, skin, fur and their packaging, disposal of liquid waste from animal agriculture, production, distribution and disposal of packaging used in animal products, carbon-intensive medical treatment of millions of cases of zoonotic illnesses and the millions of cases of chronic degenerative human diseases resulting from consuming animal products.

Live stockCarbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide are the major gases of global warming and all are in some way by-products of animal agriculture.

Methane and nitrous oxide are much more potent than carbon dioxide. Over a 100 year period, nitrous oxide has 298 times more impact per unit weight than CO2. Methane has 23 times more impact than CO2. Methane cycles out of the atmosphere in only 8 years compared to 100 years for carbon dioxide and 150 for nitrous oxide.

Methane is a naturally occurring gas, much of which is trapped in permafrost soil and under the oceans. Methane is also produced in animal digestive tracts, their respiration and from their manure. Millions of tons of methane gas are produced by animals raised for human consumption. A potent greenhouse gas, methane can trap 20 times the heat of CO2.

Nitrous oxide, commonly known as “laughing gas”, is an anesthetic and analgesic used in medicine. In nature, it is part of the nitrogen cycle. Industrial fertilizers used to grow food to feed farmed animals create massive quantities of artificial nitrogen and create more nitrous oxide emissions. Nitrous oxide reacts with ozone and is an air and water pollutant.

Farmed animals create carbon dioxide (CO2), with their respiration and the fossil fuels used to feed, grow, transport, slaughter and process them and then distribute “animal products” all over the world.

Farm animal production continues to be the single largest human endeavor using up so much of our world’s land, water, air and energy creating air and water pollution, deforestation and desertification. And it is increasing. As countries become more affluent, their meat consumption increases. Meat consumption has increased 5x in the last 50 years. By 2050, global factory farm animal production will double from the present level, accelerating global warming.


Some Facts:

  • most of the grain grown in the world is grown to feed animals, not people
  • animal agriculture accounts for over 8 percent of global human water use and is the largest source of water pollution, contributing to “dead” zones in coastal areas and degradation of coral reefs
  • 70% of previous forested land in the Amazon is now occupied by pastures, and feed crops cover a large part of the remainder of what was once fragile rainforest
  • if less animal products (meat, dairy, eggs and fish) were consumed, there would be fewer animals raised for food and substantially less greenhouse gases produced
  • less animals raised for food = less methane produced and the faster methane will leave our atmosphere
  • less animal agriculture = less carbon dioxide = slowing down of the permafrost melting which could release massive amounts of methane
  • less animal agriculture = less industrial fertilizer = less nitrous oxide = less water and land pollution
  • less animal agriculture = less deforestation

Changing light bulbs is not enough! Consumer demands and our own appetites drive animal agriculture production and it is killing our planet. Make today the day you choose to explore a plant-based diet.

For more information on this topic, contact our Food for Life nurse director at 732-446-6808 x:101 or via email. Food for Life is here for YOU—to encourage and support you in transitioning to a plant-based, healthy lifestyle. We offer assistance with nutritional guidelines, recipes, presentations, workshops, email tips and consultations. Be sure to ask for our free Veggie Starter Kit!

Additional information:

World Watch magazine November/December 2009

Humane Society of US Report: The Impact of Animal Agriculture on Global Warming and Climate Change

Livestock’s Long Shadow