Yes, I’m a vegetarian, and yes I think most people should be; however, will I force you to be vegetarian? – not yet. In fact, I only discuss why I’m veggie when asked (with the obvious exception of posting here). One reason I love not eating animals is that it’s really awesome for the environment to not feed animals in the first place. Oh, the irony. An article from Alternet sheds some light on how not eating meat is great for the environment.
Even more hidden from public view is the role of animal feeding in global warming. The shocking fact is that production of beef, pork and poultry is a bigger part of the climate problem than the cars and trucks we drive, indeed of the whole transportation sector. In our fantasies — and ads — we see contented cows eating grass, but the fact is all but a lucky few spend much of their lives in dismal feedlots where grass does not grow, getting fat on corn and other unspeakable byproducts. Internationally, two-thirds of the earth’s available agricultural land is used to raise animals and their feed crops, primarily corn and soybeans, and the trend is accelerating as people in Latin America and Asia increasingly demand an Americanized diet rich in meat. The need to grow more animal feed and more animals has been devastating rainforests and areas like Brazil’s Cerrado region, the world’s most biologically diverse savannah, long before the demand for biofuels began escalating.
It’s What We Eat
Vegetarians have long understood this issue, but asking the American public to eat less meat is still a radical idea, politically untouchable. Yet the meat industry is a giant source of greenhouse gases, of which carbon dioxide is only one, and not the most dangerous one. All those steer feedlots and factory buildings crammed with pigs and chickens produce immense amounts of animal wastes that give off methane. On an equivalent basis to carbon dioxide, methane is twenty-three times more potent as a greenhouse gas. When you add in the production of fertilizer and other aspects of animal farming (including land use changes, feed transport, etc.) livestock farming is responsible for nearly one-fifth of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, more than the transportation sector, according to a 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.