Eating to save the world

| 5th April 2019
We are losing species to extinction at an unprecedented rate and human activity is the culprit - can going vegan help?

According to the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, we lose between 24 to 150 species every day

‘Extinction’ is a word which has been cropping up more and more in news headlines. We regularly hear about different species which are being pushed to the brink of survival, whether at home or abroad.

Recently, a parliamentary debate was interrupted by protestors from Extinction Rebellion who stripped off in the House of Commons in order to bring attention to what they term an ‘unprecedented global emergency’ in which every species on earth is threatened.

Experts agree that we are living in an unprecedented time of species extinction. According to the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, we lose between 24 to 150 species every day.

Unlike past mass extinctions which have been caused by phenomena such as ice ages and meteor strikes, current losses can be traced back to human activity. But what are we doing to cause it?

Habitat loss

The WWF states that habitat loss poses the greatest threat to species. The expansion of agricultural land is one of the main drivers for the destruction of natural habitat. This isn’t new information – a 2015 article in Science Direct states that “livestock production is the single biggest driver for habitat loss.”

Animal products are incredibly inefficient to produce, meaning that huge amounts of land are needed to raise animals and grow their feed.

Up to 91 percent of Amazon deforestation is attributable to animal agriculture. In just 12 months between 2017 and 2018, an area the size of one million football fields was lost, largely to make space to grow crops to feed to farmed animals. With this we lose some of the richest habitat on our planet.

But you don’t need to travel as far as the Amazon to see the impact. Here in the UK it’s the same story. We have lost 50 percent of UK wildlife, and again experts cite modern farming methods as the culprit.

In a recent article Michael McCarthy paints a stark picture: “The fields may still look green in spring, but it is mostly lifeless scenery … it is green concrete.”

Climate change

And then there’s the other reason. As the parliamentary protestors called it – the elephant in the room.

We’re all familiar with the powerful image of the polar bear struggling to stay afloat on an ever-decreasing ice floe. This is a potent symbol of what is happening across the world as animals struggle to adapt to changes in the environment caused by climate change.

Again, this leads back to animal agriculture, a major contributor of greenhouse gases. Farmed animals produce more emissions than all of the direct emissions from all transport globally.

Often the gas contributed is methane, which is about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of warming the earth’s atmosphere.

The solution

In the face of this bleak picture, what if there was something you could do to tackle the problem? What if you could do something positive to counter it three times a day?

More and more people are going vegan, withdrawing their support from animal agriculture industries and instead funding a food system which is more environmentally friendly and more compassionate.

If you need any help or advice along your vegan journey, why not sign up to the free VeGuide app? It will walk you through 30 days of plant based living, offering help, tips and advice. Going vegan has never been so easy.

You might find it’s the simplest way that you can reduce your carbon footprint – and you don’t even need to take part in any kind of semi-naked public protest.

This Author 

Elena Orde is senior communications and campaigns officer at The Vegan Society and editor of The Vegan magazine.

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