By Louisa Freeman
Louisa, our summer intern, recently became a vegetarian after learning she was contributing to climate change through her diet. Here is her story…
Meat has been a staple of my diet for as long as I can remember. It is present in both my German and American cultures, engrained in my traditions that have been passed on from generation to generation, and enjoyed in day-to-day life. Unfortunately, this craving has its price. The meat industry is greatly impacting the environment on which we depend. Thus, we consumers should take notice.
I would consider myself a strong environmental activist. I have traveled with my family my entire life and been to places on both sides of the spectrum. No matter where I am, I can’t help recognizing how certain cultures prioritize the environment. At school, I study sustainability, lead a club of student-athletes to promote sustainability initiatives, and work with our Athletic Department on sustainability-related projects. I’ve covered a broad range of topics, but meat was never one of them.
It was not until I watched a documentary called Cowspiracy that I changed the way I ate. The documentary reveals the impact of the meat industry on the environment and reasons for the lack of attention on the subject. The facts were appalling. Here are just ten insights from the meat industry that made me feel as though I needed to change:
- Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction
- Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 Million tons of carbon dioxide per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emission
- Even without fossil fuels, we will exceed our 565 giga-tonnes CO2 limit by 2030…all from raising animals.
- Livestock systems occupy 45% of the global surface area
- Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction
- For every 1 pound of fish caught, up to 5 pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill
- As many as 40% (63 billion pounds) of fish caught globally every year are discarded
- A year of meatless Mondays saves 65,000 gallons of water
- One hamburger requires 660 gallons of water
- Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, 20 pounds of CO2 equivalent, and animal’s lives
Hard to believe? I thought so too. There’s a reason why this information isn’t as available to the public as much as the benefits of drinking a coke or eating chicken nuggets. But the facts are there. As the environmentalist I claimed to be, I couldn’t sit idly knowing I was contributing to an industry that is destroying our planet before our eyes. I learned that every individual can make an impact. Every individual has a choice. I made mine. Will you make yours?