Here at The Tartan Carrot, we often get asked why it is that we do what we do ? For us its simple … we would like as many people as possible to adopt a Whole Foods, 100% Plant Based Vegan diet. There are 3 reasons that we recommend this. i) Personal Health. ii) For the Environment. iii) For the Animals.
In this article I’d like to say a bit more about the impact our food choices are having on the environment. Obviously this is a HUGE topic, but lets make a start … :-).
By the year 2050 the human population is expected to rise to 9.6 Billion. That’s about 2 billion new inhabitants in just over 30 years.
As the human population grows, so does our demand for food. With limited natural resources available this can only place an increasing strain on our environment. We must therefore find sustainable ways to feed our increasing population.
There is now intensive farming and fishing on a scale never before seen in human history.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that livestock production is responsible for around 14.5% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. When we consider the size of the transport sector which accounts for 13% of all emissions, we begin to understand the environmental impact that livestock production is having.
Water Use and Contamination – Much of the world is running out of water. Over 1 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water and more than double that number do not have access to proper sanitation. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) predicts that by 2020, between 75 and 250 million people are likely to be exposed to water stress as a result of climate change.
The United Nations Food and Drink Organisation estimates that by 2050 there will be 1.8 billion people living with absolute water scarcity and two thirds of the world’s population could be living under water stressed conditions.
Agricultural production consumes more fresh water than any other human activity and demand for water intensive foods like meat and dairy is placing increased stress on food production systems. Farming accounts for around 70% of all water drawn from lakes, aquifers and water ways. Meat production (such as the feeding of cattle) is a particularly water intensive process and livestock production accounts for 8% of total global water consumption.
Meat produced in different parts of the world require different amounts of water due to variations in species, rainfall, hygiene standards, drinking needs, slaughter methods, butchering, cleaning, packaging and also the water required to grow the animals feed. As a result estimates of the water required to produce a kilo of beef vary from 13,000 litres right up to 100,000 litres. Whichever you consider the damage is plain when you consider that a kilo of wheat can be produced by around 1000-2000 litres of water.
Land Use – Thirty percent of the earths 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 rain forest, but crops are also specifically grown as animal feed. In fact, a third of the worlds land suitable for growing crops is used to produce feed for farmed animals.
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 or grain fed to animals is not converted to edible fat or protein. Cattle require approximately 7kg of grain to generate 1 kg of beef and pigs require 4 kg of grain for 1 kg of pork. Livestock farming can lead to soil erosion causing desertification and deforestation.
Forests are one of the world’s most valuable natural resources providing a home for approximately 300 million people along with numerous unique plant and animal species. Over 1.5 Billion people depend on the forests, either for livelihood, fuel wood, medicinal plants or food. Tropical rain forests are thought to hold over half of the Earths plant and animal species. Our forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Livestock production is responsible for 70% of deforestation in Latin America, where the rain forest is being cleared to create new pastures.
A typical diet requires up to 2.5 times more land than a vegetarian diet and 5 times that of a vegan diet. Switching to a plant based diet could free up to 2700 million hectares of pasture and 100 million hectares of crop land.
It may not seem like a big deal to us, but when we scale things up town by town, and country by country its easy to see what an impact our food choices are having on the environment. The United Nations Food and Drink Organisation estimates that around 56 Billion animals are killed every year for human food consumption, and demand is only set to grow through to 2050. If we do the math, this means that around 153 million land based animals are killed for human food consumption every single day. This kind of consumption is truly staggering and is really unsustainable, aside from the very obvious compassionate reasons we don’t want animals to suffer we all should try and take steps to minimise the impact we have on the environment. I’d like to encourage us all not to think that this is someone else’s problem, or a problem that should be owned by our government or by governments around the world.
We can all choose the kind of impact that we want to have on this world, the environment and the animals we share this planet with. These choices extend to what we choose to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The fact is a Whole Foods, 100% Plant Based diet is good for your health, its good for the animals we share this planet with, and it has less environmental impact when compared with a typical diet. The environmental impact is less whether we think about land use required, water use or green house gas emission levels.