Today, many experts claimed that the energy that-vegetarian diet consumed about ten times higher energy than a vegetarian diet did. Compared with environmental cost on the non-vegetarian diet, it is less on the vegetarian diet. Moreover, some studies suggest that if most people change to a vegetarian diet, the carbon dioxide emission from food production will be decreased by around 60%. Therefore, more and more people start to promote the vegetarian lifestyle. However, whether environmental pollution and energy consumption can be solved by vegetarianism alone still exists many doubts.
Why do so many people promote vegetarianism?
First of all, it takes more land to produce meat-based food than to produce plant-based food. For example, if trying to produce the same amount of protein, the meat-based food will occupy 0.5 hectares of land, while that will be only 0.4 hectares for plant-based food. Although it seems that the gap is small, about 40% of the world’s cereal harvest is used to feed animals, which is enough to satisfy the food needs of all people in the world. In other words, there will be no hungry people. Besides, the loss of land caused by overgrazing is also plaguing people. For example, 60% of pastures in the United States are eroded by overgrazing and the rate of erosion keeps rising.
Compared with the waste of land resources, the waste of water consumption required by animal husbandry is even more alarming. In the United States, for example, although the direct water needs for livestock industry is only 1.3% of the total agricultural water, the previously mentioned grain consumption required to feed animals is very large. Studies have shown that the production of protein is the same, but the consumption of water on animal protein is 100 times more than it is on plant protein. Although most of the farmland is rainwater-irrigated, still this large amount of water demand will consume other freshwater resources such as groundwater, and the enormous damage to the environment lasts for a long time.
In addition to the unneglectable consumption of resources, large-scale animal husbandry also emits a large amount of waste that causes air, water, and soil pollution. This waste contains potentially carcinogenic nitrates, large amounts of nitrogen, other metallic substances, and some antibiotics, most of which are discharged without proper disposition, causing a lot of pollution. In the United States alone, 7 billion animals emit 130 times more waste than 100 million people did. On the other hand, livestock and livestock waste generate large amounts of gases such as carbon dioxide, which is the main culprit in the greenhouse effect.
So vegan is the best choice?
Under so many shortcomings of the livestock industry, rejecting meat-based diet and promoting vegetarianism seem to be a necessary act for us to protect the environment. However, animal husbandry is not the only “killer” that damages the environment. The destruction of the environment by the crop industry cannot be underestimated as well.
Due to the development of modern agriculture, in order to pursue higher efficiency and crop yield, large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides are used in the planting process. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides will contaminate groundwater, endanger human health and reduce biodiversity. Besides, fertilizers and pesticides and even mechanized planting need to rely on a large amount of energy consumption of petroleum so improper vegan food cannot guarantee the sustainable development of the environment. Of course, part of the shortcomings of this is because the large need of grain for the livestock industry leads to modern agriculture focus more on efficiency and then neglect of the environmental sustainability.
In terms of land use, some land is more suitable for animal husbandry than crop farming, such as semi-arid areas and mountainous areas. These areas, as livestock areas, actually can reduce environmental damage than used as planted areas. On the other hand, in today’s society, the problem of food waste is very serious. It is estimated that between 30% and 50% of the world’s food is wasted. Pigs and chickens can be fed with leftovers, which can solve the problem of food waste.
Finally, if you want to protect the environment through vegan methods, the choice of food is also very important. For example, potatoes are an environmentally friendly vegetable, but if you buy vegetables grown in the greenhouse or off-season vegetables, the cultivation of these vegetables will also produce enormous carbon dioxide, which is not conducive to environmental protection. And living on the vegan way without any other supplement will lack certain essential elements, which can only be taken from meat.
Balance diet and make changes
In conclusion, a meat-based diet is indeed more environmentally damaging than a vegetable-based diet, and overgrazing and intensive animal husbandry are the main factors that damage the environment. This is because of the excessive demand for meat, such as the fact that the average American eats more than twice as much meat as he or she needs. So people can switch to vegetables by buying less meat and eating more vegetables. Besides, obesity is also one of the most painful problems in most developed countries, and the reduction of meat consumption could release this problem to reach physical health. In addition, people can choose food with low energy consumption to protect our environment. If they cannot live without a meat-based diet, chicken or pork is more environmentally friendly than beef.