I’m sure you are aware that in October of this year the IPCC released a devastating report that was picked up by media from around the world. It scared the living daylights out of us (and rightly so) for it mapped out how our future will look if we do not act immediately to combat climate change. Climate change is paving the way for more droughts and heat waves, more intense hurricanes, continuing rise of sea levels and a continuing increase in global temperature. We will lose coral reefs, our homes will be destroyed due to flooding, and our ability to grow crops will suffer, to name a few of the devastating changes that will occur.
Simply put, it sounds like an absolute dystopian mess.
All we have to ask ourselves is whether this is the outcome we want for our home. If the answer is “NO” then please read on (high five!). To anyone who isn’t bothered by this then I admit, my words will be lost on you.
We have been told time and time again that we can do a number of things to help save our dying planet. We can take public transport more. We can recycle or use less plastic. We can change to energy efficient light bulbs. All of these things can help to reduce our carbon footprint and lessen the negative impact we make to our planet. This is of course accurate, and it is important to take into consideration any step that can help in the fight to save our planet.
But there is one obvious act that we can all easily do that will have a greater positive impact than you could ever possibly imagine; reduce our meat and dairy intake.
It is clear however, that some are more resistant to this change than to any other. If it is mentioned in conversation, it is as though people put their fingers in their ears and shout “LA LA LA I’m not listening” until whoever brought it up is forced to stop talking.
At the cost of creativity, I’ll just give you some cold, hard facts. Animal agriculture or raising livestock for meat, eggs, and milk creates 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than all transportation emissions combined. In particular, cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day and with methane being 25 -100 times more destructive than CO2 on a 20-year time frame, you can see why animal agriculture is having such a huge contribution to climate change.
Further damage to our planet includes the strain animal agriculture puts on both water and land use. For example, it takes 2500 gallons of water to produce just 1lb of beef. On top of this, 70 per cent of the planet’s agricultural land is used for animal pasture with a further 10% being used to grow grains to feed livestock (for meat and dairy). This is land and water we could be putting towards much more efficient methods of food production; ultimately resulting in feeding billions more people who need it.
But we all know this. We have seen statistics just like those listed here, that that demonstrate the reality of our dietary choices. We are aware that reducing our meat and dairy intake would have an almost immediate positive effect on our planet. Yet despite knowing this, people simply aren’t as willing to take the step to reduce their consumption of meat and dairy.
It isn’t that people don’t care about their world. After the release of IPCC’s report in October, I saw genuine fear in those around me about the damage we were doing to our planet. I see it in those who carry reusable cups, or those who turn down a plastic straw in a restaurant. People are definitely aware that their lifestyle choices have an impact on our planet.
But knowing what we do, I also notice that those same people aren’t willing to simply choose the vegan option in Pret a lunch. And to me, this seems odd (also because the baguette with Kalamata olive tapenade is pretty darn good).
There is a misconception that to live a more vegan lifestyle you have to be ‘all in’. That once you start leaning towards a more vegan way of living that you are bound to some law that forces you to be perfect. In my opinion, us vegans don’t help ourselves. Often we appear to be a part of some sort of exclusive club and don’t make enough of an effort to allow people to dip their toe in the water. Of course, if you are aware of the mistreatment of animals that occurs within the industry then ‘dipping our toe into the water’ might not work for you, just as it didn’t for me. But when it comes to just wanting to reduce your impact on the planet you do not have to be an animal loving, hippie, hemp wearing activist to follow a more vegan lifestyle (full respect to those who are of course).
But vegans cannot take all the blame. The harsh truth is that if you truly care about protecting your planet, and you know that reducing your meat and dairy consumption can make a difference, then it’s time to start facing up to this truth.
The fact is that if we consider ourselves to be good, compassionate people who want to protect our planet then why do we continue to eat meat and dairy to such an alarming extent? We do not need it to survive, in fact, we thrive without it, so it really comes down to one reason why we continue to consume in this way. And that is because it tastes good.
For me, given the state of our planet, this is not a good enough reason. The impact of animal agriculture on our world is not insignificant. It is very very significant. And when you can get tasty, filling and delicious food elsewhere there appears to be no reason to turn to it as much as we do.
In celebration of World Vegan Month, I want to say thank you to those who are making changes in an effort to protect our planet. It can feel frustrating to do so when often those around you aren’t. This isn’t about being perfect (this is arguably impossible in this modern world) but it is about making the conscious effort to do that little bit more to help. It ultimately comes down to how much we care about the future of our planet, and perhaps making a few changes at dinner time could be one of the greatest and simplest ways we can help protect it.
By Frances James