Not many people think they make a huge impact on the environment let alone contribute to greenhouse gasses; however, with every food choice, we make we contribute to the hole in our ozone.
But it’s just dinner, how big could that impact be? Certainly, flying cross country is definitely worse, jet fuel versus a burger, right? The Dairy and Meat Industries surpass the Transportation industry as the world’s biggest polluters. “Animal agriculture is the second-largest contributor to human-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions after fossil fuels and is a leading cause of deforestation, water, and air pollution and biodiversity loss”.
More specifically, according to the Guardian, raising livestock for meat and dairy generates “14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the second-highest source of emissions and greater than all transportation combined. Combined!
Animal agriculture specifically:
- Accounts for five percent of global anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions;
- Represents 44 percent of anthropogenic methane emissions, the primary driver of climate change-related to livestock, as methane is 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide over 100 years
Source: Climate Nexus. Animal Agriculture’s Impact on Climate Change. 2020. Accessed 28 June 2020.
As of 1990, the world has lost over 130m hectares of rainforests
Animal agriculture accounts for 70% of farmland and contributes to deforestation and destroys the Earth’s biodiversity and ecosystem. Annually, 5,8000 sq. km of Amazon forest is being converted for cattle farming. In the United States alone, it Is documented in 2014 in the United States that cattle farms emitted 164.3 million metric tons of CO2e.
But is it just beef farming?
Smithfield Foods (hogs/pigs), a company located in America owned by a group out of China has 27 recorded fines totaling $120,311,242 from waste disposal, environmental, and water pollution violations. This is $120,311,242 out of $137,342,409 total fines since the year 2000.
Palm oil is also an environmental enemy; accounting for 80% of deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia within the last 20 years, impacting orangutan communities. In fact, some experts predict extinction within 10–20 years. Be conscious of label reading and see how many products have palm oil; it’s alarming.
Follow the money
The USDA (US Department of Agriculture), an agency responsible for implementing and enforcing federal laws relating to agriculture, forestry, rural economic development, and food, reported $176.5 billion in receipts for animal/animal products in 2018.
Smithfield Foods, in 2019, was purchased by China’s WH Group for $4.7 billion. Big Ag is bailed out by the government and has the largest political lobbyists, as laws are written to protect their business practices. Despite the World Health Organization declaring processed and red meats as a carcinogen, there are no warning labels on these products like cigarettes, advertising is not prohibited again like cigarettes, and even more alarming, it’s consistently marketed to children.
So what can we do?
Every choice matters, and you can make a difference; limit meat and dairy intake, read labels, drive change through consumerism. Plant-based options are making meatless Mondays effortless there are recipes and products equivalent to any animal-based meal and with the internet the options and possibilities are endless. Challenge yourself to replace one meal or even one day and eat plant-based. Read labels, in the United States alone, palm oil is found in 50% of products used daily. Buy local, support local farmers, join a food co-op, start a vegetable garden. Money drives production, “put your money where your mouth is” and drive demand.