Studies show that most people become vegan because of their compassion towards animals. However there is a minority of vegans that consider themselves to be environmentalists first and foremost, one of those people being my friend Tony.

Tony had grown up with dogs and had always been a meat-eater. Occasionally he would dabble in vegetarianism for the animals but nothing stuck… Until one very insignificant day in Thailand when Tony decided to watch a documentary. That documentary was Cowspiracy.

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (available on Netflix) is one of the most renowned documentaries detailing the important link between veganism and the environment. It was made as an attempt to warn the public about the damaging effect that the factory farming industry is having on the planet. I would highly recommend everyone to watch this documentary. People that worry about watching graphic videos, you can feel at ease, there is no blood or gore in this, eye-opening, documentary.

It was the environmental and humanitarian message that spoke to Tony and overnight, Tony made the tremendous switch from meat-eater to vegan! He said 

“I always thought of myself as an environmentalist but I hadn’t made the connection between the environment and the agricultural industry. Once I realised, it was the last straw.”  

The following are some of the environmental and humanitarian problems that we now face as a consequence of factory farming. 

1. Over 80% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries.

Problem: I will use India as an example. In 2013, UNICEF reported that India had over 61,000,000 starving children. India has a huge land mass which enables the growth of crops which could sufficiently feed the people living there. However, the farmers are paid a higher price for selling their animals and crop abroad to the Western World. This means there are insufficient crops to feed the people of India. 

To be more broad, we are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people (the global population is estimated at 7.4 billion) but at least 50% of grain is fed to livestock. 

Unfortunately factory farms are now being pushed into countries such as India and China (4th largest population of starving children). This means that more of their crops will be fed to the animals, which will be slaughtered and sent overseas, resulting in maybe even more starvation.

Solution: Reduce your meat, egg and dairy intake. By taking a stand against these industries you are not only doing your best to save animals but you are also saving the lives of childrena and adults in these poverty-stricken countries. 

 2. Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of amazon destruction

Problem: The forests are cut down to provide more room for planting crops or grazing livestock. Not only does this result in a loss of habitat for millions of species (up to 137 plant, animal and insect species are lot every day!) but when trees are chopped down they release carbon into the atmosphere and significantly contribute to global warming. This is not only specific to the Amazon rainforest, unfortunately agriculture is estimated to be the cause of around 80% of deforestation worldwide.

Sadly the activists that fight for the survival of the Amazon are a threat to the money-makers in the factory farming industry (loggers, farmers, etc.). More than 150 environmental activists have been murdered in Brazil since 2012, most commonly by hired hitmen.

Solution: You can reduce your meat, egg and dairy intake. This will quickly decrease the demand for vast crops and livestock that factory farms currently produce and the rate of deforestation will slow down. It might even slow down so much to enable nature to recover what has been destroyed. 

3. Livestock and their byproducts account for 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gasses

Problem: Previous predictions on the greenhouse gasses contributed by animal agriculture had been grossly underestimated at 18%. Now they are estimated at a staggering 51%!

Greenhouse gasses are predominantly made up of water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane. The more of this gas that is introduced into the environment, the more the planet will slowly heat up. In a short time there will be more droughts and consequently more famine as crops do not receive the water they need to thrive. The sea level will also rise because of the warmer temperatures melting ice and snow. This will mean the land that is already just above sea-level will submerge. Not great!

At the rate we are going, emissions for agriculture are estimated to increase 80% by 2050 whereas energy related emissions are expected to increase only 20% by 2040. Unfortunately it has been reported that converting to wind and solar power will take 20+ years and £29.46 trillion dollars… We have the money but not the time. 

Solution: Eating less meat, egg and dairy would give the most rapid decrease in greenhouse gas and the consequent devestating effects to our planet. 

 4. Animal Agriculture is responsible for over a fifth of all fresh water consumption in the world

Problem: Many parts of the world have a depletion in their supply of fresh water and animal agriculture is a major cause. Did you know it takes

  • 15,415 litres of water to produce 1 kilo of beef
  • 5,988 litres of water to produce 1 kilo of pork
  • 4,325 litres of water to produce 1 kilo of chicken 
  • 2,497 litres of water to produce 1 kilo of rice
  • 1,849 litres of water to produce 1 kilo dried pasta 
  • 214 litres of water to produce 1 kilo of tomatoes
  • (link)

Globally, one in ten people lack access to safe water and 1.5 billion people are affected by water-related diseases every year, effecting the impoverished countries the most. The factory farming industry is destroying our fresh water reserves.

Solution: We reduce our meat, egg and dairy consumption. For every day one person is vegan, they save over 4000 litres of water.

5. We could see fishless oceans by 2048

Problem: The industrial fishing business is inefficient and destructive. The current situation is that three quarters of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted already. For every 1lb of fish caught, up to 5lbs of other marine species are caught, wounded and then discarded into the ocean where they will slowly die. Scientists estimate as many as 650,000 whales, dolphins and seals are killed every year by fishing vessels alone and 40-50 million sharks are killed in fishing lines and nets. These are worrying times as the fishing methods used presently are unsustainable.

If our oceans become void of life then we cannot sustain human life on the planet either. One of the amazing things that fish naturally do for us humans is they control algal blooms (a sudden increase in population of algae) which if left uncontrolled by nature, can have disastrous effects. Research has shown that harmful algal blooms are particularly toxic and have been known to cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, blistering of the mouth and in some cases even liver damage.

Solution: Eat less fish. If we eat less fish, there will be less of a demand. Let’s not be the reason that fish become extinct.

6. A farm with 2500 dairy cows produce the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people

Problem: Large volumes of waste from factory farms threaten the quality of our surface water (rivers, oceans etc.) and groundwater (the water beneath the surface of the planet). Waste spills, leakage from waste storage facilities, and runoff from fields are the main source of water pollution. 

When fertilizers, manure, waste and ammonia turn into nitrate they reduce the amount of oxygen in water. Nutrient pollution in ground water as a result of agricultural waste (which millions of people use as their drinking water source)  can be harmful, even at low levels. Also the waste gives excess nitrogen to the atmosphere which can produce pollutants such as ammonia and ozone, which can impair our ability to breathe, limit visibility and genetically modify plant growth. When excess nitrogen comes back to earth from the atmosphere, it can harm the health of forests, soils and again our waters.

Solution: Reduce your meat, egg and dairy intake. Factory farms (mostly farming cows) are causing this waste issue and it needs to stop.

Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life. (LINK)