Weighing the Benefits of a Vegan Lifestyle: Environmental


Written by Mikaela Wayne

Ninety-five percent of people eat meat, dairy and eggs. What many of them are likely unaware of are the detrimental effects that meat production and factory farming can have on our environment.

One of the most significant issues facing California today is the drought. We are always told to take shorter showers or turn o the sink when we are brushing our teeth; however, one form of water conservation is being ignored. It requires 2,500 gallons of water to produce roughly one pound of meat compared to a protein alternative, like tofu, that only requires 302 gallons per pound to produce. Switching to vegan options instead of meat saves thousands of gallons per meal. If there was less demand for meat and animal products, the problems associated with California’s drought could be drastically reduced. In fact, farmed animals consume half of the water in the United States.

Global warming is also greatly a effected by factory farming. According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 18 percent of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions are due to animal agriculture. This includes 37 percent of methane emissions and 65 percent of nitrous oxide emission. Factory farming and meat production also release incredible amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. If every American were to eat one less meal that included meat per week, the carbon dioxide savings would be equivalent to if 50,000 cars were not driven on roads.

Additionally, 75 percent of factory farms contribute to unregulated pollution. For example, there is far too much excretion from the animals living on these farms to be sustainable. Most of the manure is toxic by-product. In addition, agricultural chemicals are used to grow the food that factory animals consume, which hurts the ecosystem.

Aside from factory farming, over fishing has proven harmful to many ecosystems and contributed to dead zones in the ocean. For example, the term “fishing down the food web” has been coined to describe fisheries that have depleted certain species of fish and now have no other option but to hunt for smaller fish and marine organisms. While this situation a effects individual fish, the real issues arise in the ecosystems as a whole. Without certain species of fish, ecosystems fall apart. Over fishing also contributes to dead zones, where entire areas of the ocean are totally void of marine life.

For the environment, it is undeniable that going vegan can make the most significant positive impact. Without the demand of meat from people, factory farming and over fishing will be a thing of the past. While recycling, not driving everywhere and taking shorter showers all have positive environmental impacts, going vegan is the best way to make a significant and widespread difference.