OPINION: Animal agriculture is killing the earth


Students in San Francisco, CA protesting climate change. Photo by Li-An Lim

Emma Sheeran, Opinion Editor

The rising demand for animal products has resulted in a fast growing animal agriculture industry. This continual increase in animal farming has left a severe impact on the environment. This negative impact is felt in the atmosphere, on land, and in the sea.

The animal agriculture industry accounts for 51% of all greenhouse gases. Excessive carbon dioxide, ammonia, methane production all stem from global livestock farming. Methane is produced by cows in livestock farms. The fermentation and storage of manure continually releases this gas, immediately contributing to global warming. In fact, methane is 28 times more impactful on global warming than carbon dioxide. Each year, the atmosphere suffers to absorb these gases, which directly leads to global warming.

On land, animals are farmed in a variety of ways, all of which pollute the environment. Soil degradation is a big problem caused by animal farming. Overgrazing and large quantities of excrement cause long term soil degradation such as erosion and loss of viable land. Livestock farms are often heavily concentrated with animals, which allows bacteria and disease to spread. These contaminants combined with manure leach into the groundwater, further polluting the ecosystem.

Deforestation is another problem directly caused by the expanding animal agriculture industry. In fact, about 6.7 million acres of forests are destroyed each year for livestock farming. These forests are burned on a large-scale, shattering ecosystems worldwide. For example, 70% of the Amazon Rainforest has been deforested via burning and clearing to be used as animal agriculture land.

In the sea, fish are farmed via aquaculture. Aquaculture is often inappropriately practiced, resulting in the destruction of natural ocean habitats. Similar to concentrated livestock farms, aquaculture has concentrated fish populations in small netted areas. Aquaculture is a unique sub-sector of the animal agriculture industry because it is loosely regulated. This lack of regulation leads to the overcrowding of fish, pollution of surrounding waters, and destruction of natural habitats.

Plant-based diets are the solution to environmental problems and climate change caused by the animal agriculture industry. These diets completely eliminate animal products and directly help the environment. By following a plant-based diet, you are voting with your dollar and action. If more people eat plant-based, the demand for animal products will greatly decline, ultimately protecting the environment from the damage caused by this industry.

In comparison to plants, animal products require much more water and land. For example, it takes 58 gallons of water and 41 sq. ft of land to produce a single ¼ lb. beef patty. A popular meat alternative, Beyond Meat, uses 99% less water and 93% less land in one ¼ patty than a beef patty. Plant-based food uses a fraction of the water, land, and resources that animal products do. The facts speak for themselves.

Luckily, plant-based diets have gained popularity in the past two decades. There has been a 600% increase in people choosing plant-based diets in the past three years alone. There are many benefits that result from this diet, but one of the most significant is the positive impact on the environment. Plant-based diets have proven time and time again to be the most sustainable. Our dietary choices now will make a difference in the future of our earth.