Why its green to go vegetarian
In this Fact Sheet: Introduction, Climate Change, Fishing & the Oceans, Water Use & Contamination, Land Use, Sustainability, Why Vegetarian?, References
There were approximately 6.9 billion people living on earth in 20101, this number is expected to rise to 9 billion by 20502 and as the world’s population continues to grow, our requirement for food will also increase. With dwindling resources and an already increasing number of undernourished people in the world, the effects could be devastating.
Worldwide food production requires around 30% of the total soil available, 20% of fossil fuel energy and a major part of the fresh water flow3. Raising cattle is one of the most damaging components of agriculture4. They cause the most environmental damage of any non-human species through over-grazing, soil erosion, desertification, tropical deforestation for ranches and growing of soya for their feed, in addition to their gaseous emissions and manure products.
Meat and seafood are the two most rapidly growing ingredients in the global diet and also two of the most costly in resource use. In 2006, 276 million tonnes of chicken, pork, beef and other meat were produced, 4 times as much as in 1961. On average, each person eats twice as much meat as back then (43kgs). The fishing industry harvested 141 million tonnes of seafood globally in 2005, 8 times as much as in 19505. Meat is now the single largest source of animal protein in all affluent nations6 and demand for animal flesh is expected to more than double by the year 20507. Within this timescale the livestock population is expected to rise from 60 billion farm animals to 120 billion8.
In order to meet this growing appetite, animals will no doubt be reared more intensively and cheaply with factory farming and aquaculture (fish farming) causing further pollution, water and land usage. If nothing is done, the environmental impact of meat production can only increase. Diet is an important tool in working to achieve environmental sustainability.
Studies on world food security estimate that an affluent diet containing meat requires up to 3 times as many resources as a vegetarian diet9. Going vegetarian is an easy way to lower your own environmental impact and help ensure worldwide food security4, 10, 11.
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