Why it's green to go vegetarian
Thirty percent of the earth’s entire land surface – a massive 70% of all agricultural land - is used for rearing farmed animals. Much of this is grazing land that would otherwise host a natural habitat such as the valuable rainforest, but crops are also grown specifically as animal feed. In fact, a third of the world’s land suitable for growing crops is used to produce feed for farmed animals7.
Livestock farming is essentially inefficient as mammals in particular are inefficient converters of feed to meat. A vast percentage of gross energy (89-97%) and protein (80-96%) contained in the cereal/grain fed to animals is not converted into edible fat or protein6. Cattle require approximately 7kg of grain in order to generate a 1kg of beef and pigs require 4kg grain for 1kg of pork11. Livestock farming can lead to overgrazing causing soil erosion, desertification and deforestation11. Twenty percent of the world’s grazing land has already been designated as degraded due to the rearing animals for their meat7.
Forests are one of the world’s most valuable resources, providing a home for approximately 300 million people (indigenous and non-indigenous) along with numerous unique plant and animal species. Over 1.5 billion people depend upon the forests, whether this be their livelihood, fuel wood, medicinal plants or food37. Tropical rainforests are thought to hold over half of the Earth’s plant and animal species. Our forests are being destroyed at a rapid rate. Between 2000 and 2005, 90 million acres of forest were destroyed and the World Resource Institute estimates that 39% of the world’s remaining frontier forest is at risk37. Today’s main threats include clearing land for agriculture and overgrazing as well as the more widely publicised commercial logging, energy development and mining. The vast amount of land used to raise animals is causing environmental problems such as habitat destruction and deforestation. Going vegetarian will halve the land-use of your diet. Livestock production is responsible for 70% of the Amazon deforestation in Latin America, where the rainforest has been cleared to create new pastures7. Deforestation increases greenhouse gas emissions by releasing carbon previously stored in the trees. It is also a major driver in the loss of biodiversity – a pressing concern when one considers the fact that just a few species of livestock now account for about 20% of total terrestrial animal biomass7. Rearing animals away from precious habitats offers no easy solutions. It is becoming more common for cattle to be denied the opportunity to graze by moving them directly into feedlots after being weaned. Intensive feeding on a diet consisting mainly of concentrates has been shown to be an inefficient way of producing dietary proteins6. In order to supply meat producers with cheap animal feed, large areas of tropical forests have been cleared37.
A typical diet requires up to 2.5 times the amount of land compared to a vegetarian diet and 5 times that of a vegan diet38. For example, a farmer can feed up to 30 people throughout the year with vegetables, fruits, cereals and vegetable fats on one hectare of land. If the same area is used for the production of eggs, milk and/or meat the number of people fed varies from 5-108. The amount of agricultural land used worldwide has increased by over 10%, from 4.49 billion acres to 4.96 between 1965 and 200528. Switching to a plant-based protein diet could free up to 2,700 million hectares (Mha) of pasture and 100Mha of cropland whereby the re-growing vegetation would use a large uptake of carbon in the process17.
The vast amount of land used to raise animals is causing environmental problems such as habitat destruction and deforestation. Going vegetarian will halve the land-use of your diet.
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