by Charles Weller September 17, 2014
Thanks to a growing body of research on the links between animal protein and various chronic diseases, many have turned to plant-based diets as a means of promoting optimal long-term health.
However, personal, physical well-being is only one of the benefits that comes from this lifestyle change. Because plant-based diets reduce our dependence on livestock production, they also create a healthier environment and a better world for future generations.
If you’ve switched to a plant-based diet, you’ve learned how to meet all your nutritional requirements without any need for the livestock raised on large farms. In doing so, you reduced your environmental footprint and helped contribute to a healthier future. That’s because, as has been confirmed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), animal-based food production can have a dramatic, negative impact on the environment.
As the demand for cheap, quick sources of animal protein has increased, so has the toll our land takes in meeting these demands. Forests have been destroyed to make way for pastureland, and natural pasturelands have been ravaged due to overgrazing.
These practices are killing rich topsoil and threatening natural habitats that may never be fully restored. As a result, we’re losing the biological diversity necessary for entire ecosystems to thrive. This will ultimately affect humans on a greater scale, as land degradation means a decrease in food production, and the loss of ecosystems threatens our water sources.
According to the most recent FAO study, livestock production accounts for nearly 15 percentof global greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity. That’s just slightly above the 13 percent resulting from transportation. While the FAO suggests that better farming practices could significantly reduce this number, it seems unrealistic to think that their recommended practices will see widespread use in the near future.
Greenhouse gases potentially directly affect our climate and may have already contributed to changes in weather patterns around the world. As droughts and floods threaten crop production and water supply, extreme seasons showcase the need for immediate action to better care for the environment.
The effects of livestock production are rarely talked about in our society. However, information is power, and now that we know how the consumption of animal protein potentially affects our environment, we can be part of the solution.
While we won’t completely end livestock production or reverse harm already done by choosing plant-based diets, that doesn’t mean that our lifestyle choices will not make a difference. Those who have switched to hybrid cars or reduced the amount of time they spend driving know that the little things add up. The same is true for our diets. With each person who stops their meat consumption, the demand for livestock production decreases.
So if you need another reason to feel great about your plant-based diet — or to encourage someone else to take the plunge — remember that you’re making a difference long into the future by contributing to a cleaner, healthier environment.
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