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Veganism Could Save Our Planet

Not to be the person to shove a lifestyle down your throat, but this is getting pretty serious...

Is this calf not the cutest?

You’ve heard time and time again that, in order to save the environment, you should use less water, ride your bike more often, and recycle in order to conserve water, resources, and energy. What you may not know is that even if everyone stopped driving completely, took every measure to conserve water, and composted everything they are able to compost, the carbon dioxide levels still surpass what is considered a “safe” level, and way too much water is being used each day. You can thank the agriculture industry for these issues, which the government is trying to blame on simple tasks performed by people everyday. Most organizations that are made to support the prevention of deforestation, greenhouse gas build up, or overfishing do not even mention the effects of the agriculture industry on their websites; they fear that it will deter people from donating to their cause, and draw too much government attention. In many interviews done in the documentary Cowspiracy, their representatives admitted that the agriculture industry is producing the most problems to the environment, but do not list them on their site as significant of a problem as it actually is (Andersen). The agriculture industry is responsible for fifty-one percent of the greenhouse gas emissions at 32 billion (32,000,000,000) tons of carbon dioxide per year. Methods of transportation (cars, trains, airplanes, etc.) are what is most often blamed for the mass amounts of carbon dioxide, but they only produce thirteen percent of greenhouse gas emissions (Andersen, Cowspiracy). “Agriculture, food, and related industries contributed $992 billion to US gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015, a 5.5-percent share” (Ag and Food Sectors and the Economy). The government does not want us to realize how much damage the agriculture industry actually has on the world, because of how much money they are making off of animal products each year. The agriculture industry is destroying our ecosystem, and the people in it by creating a detrimental impact on our ecosystem, mass deforestation, and it's causing serious health problems that can lead to life threatening diseases.

The agriculture industry uses more water, and creates more greenhouse gases than any other business in the United States. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef; the dairy industry is just as bad, using 1,000 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk (Andersen, Cowspiracy). They are using up so much water, which is more than one typical four family household would use in one day, but they are telling people that the reason there are so many droughts lately is because we sometimes leave the water running while we are brushing our teeth. Not to say that people should be careless with the amount of water they use, but the amount people use is not even close to the amount of water being used by the agriculture industry. Many farms rely only on rain to water their fields, so mass amounts of water are not necessary to keep plants healthy, as required by cattle. The government is so caught up in making money, and so scared of what they would lose if there were to be a change, that they will not even admit to us the leading cause of water loss in America. Greenhouse gases are also a huge issue when it comes to the agriculture industry, and the government wants to avoid informing us of that too. You always hear that cars are one of the biggest water pollutants, but methane is the number one polluter the agriculture industry is producing. According to the documentary Cowspiracy, "Methane is 86 times more likely to cause global warming than carbon dioxide" (Andersen). Why do we only hear about carbon dioxide causing global warming when methane is causing innumerably severe problems? Greenhouse gases are so much more than just carbon dioxide build up; methane, nitrous oxide, Chlorofluorocarbons, and Hydrofluorocarbons are some other examples of other greenhouse gases. Cattle farms produce all of these types of gases. The next clear ecological problem the agriculture industry is producing is the amount of fish being taken out of the ocean each year. Fish are being taken out of the ocean at rates that do not allow them to repopulate quickly enough to keep a steady population number throughout the years. The ocean has had an increasingly steep downfall in population over the past couple of years. "As many as 2.7 trillion animals are pulled from the ocean each year" (Andersen, Cowspiracy). Only about one billion fish are born each year, which is surely not enough to keep the ocean sufficiently populated. Eating a pescatarian diet is not a viable option; there is already so much ocean depletion that the ocean is expected to be devoid of fish by 2048 (Andersen, Cowspiracy). The agriculture industry is negligent to see the atrocious impact they are making on our ecosystem. They only care about the demand of the people they are selling to, and how much money they can make.

Mass deforestation is another huge issue the agriculture industry is creating. “The current contribution of agriculture to deforestation varies by region, with industrial agriculture being responsible for 30 percent of deforestation in Africa and Asia, but close to 70 percent in Latin America,” Brazil has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world (“Industrial Agriculture”). The Amazon rainforest is one of the most significant examples of deforestation. Over eighty percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cleared; it is being cleared at a rate of about one acre per second (Andersen, Cowspiracy). The leading reason for deforestation is to clear room for more cattle farms. The only way to stop this from continuing is to stop supporting the agriculture industry altogether; the more meat we are consuming, the more meat they can make money off of. If we are giving them a reason to continue clearing land then why would they want to stop? ”Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91 percent of Amazon destruction,” because Brazil does not have a significant amount of space for raising cattle, their solution has been to clear out parts of the Amazon (Andersen, Cowspiracy). This is a terrible solution for the long term, because the Amazon rainforest is one of the biggest sources of oxygen in the world. In relation to providing oxygen, it also helps to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. According to the website Live Science,” In a normal year, the Amazon rainforest absorbs about 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide” ("Amazon Rainforest Breathes In More Than it Breathes Out”). When trees are cut down they emit all of the carbon dioxide they have not used up, so the simple act of cutting trees down adds more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere on top of the greenhouse gases they will be producing when they use the land to raise cattle. The Brazilian government, and leaders of the agriculture industry have made it their goal to keep their citizens, and the rest of the world, from knowing the gravity of their destruction of the Amazon rainforest. It is very dangerous to be an activist in Brazil as exhibited by Sister Dorothy Stang, a Brazilian activist against the deforestation of the Amazon. She was killed by two men in the agriculture industry. They shot one round into her stomach, one round into her back, and four rounds into her head while she was on her way to speak at an activist meeting, all because they disliked that she was pointing out all of the harm they were doing to the environment (Wikipedia). In America, the costs are not as severe as they are in other countries, but they are still apparent. Websites avoid the topic of the agriculture industry altogether to avoid getting their website or parts of it shut down by the FBI (Andersen, Cowspiracy). The stakes are not quite as high in America, because we have more of a tendency to share any form of violence on social media. The killing of an activist would bring ample amounts of unwanted attention to the agriculture industry. It is much easier for the government to go undetected by censoring information than publicly chastising these activists.

The last of the more prominent reasons it would be more efficient for everyone to become vegan is health benefits. "Approximately six to eight million adults in the United States eat no meat, fish, or poultry, according to a Harris Interactive poll commissioned by the Vegetarian Resource Group... About two million have become vegans, foregoing not only animal flesh, but also animal-based products such as milk, cheese, eggs, and gelatin," says Harvard's Women's Health Watch ("Becoming a Vegetarian”). If two million people have already transitioned to veganism, and at least six million are already headed towards a vegan lifestyle by becoming vegetarian, why is it such an absurd idea to think that the entire population could achieve veganism? Veganism can contribute to weight loss, because there is a much lower intake of fat involved in a vegan diet. "Many observational studies show that vegans tend to be thinner, and have lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than non-vegans," says the Health Line newsletter (Petre, "6 Science-Based Health Benefits of Eating Vegan"). This could help combat the serious obesity problem in the United States. Veganism promotes eating more fresh or natural foods that are not covered in salt and other preservatives, which can help lower the overall cholesterol rate. To embark upon eating more fresh foods, it is very easy to start a simple garden in your backyard or even grow vegetables, fruits, and herbs in your pots, buckets, or pretty much any container. This will allow you to know exactly what is going into or on your plants and it is a lot more cost efficient to grow your own vegetables. If you do not have time to do this, or just really do not have a green thumb, it is still okay to buy and support produce from farmers markets or grocery stores, but it is not as ideal as self-sufficient farming. When you are buying produce it is still supporting the use of very harmful pesticides that are hurting the environment. Pesticides kill bugs, which in turn kills birds due to lack of food. They can also be highly toxic to humans upon consumption or even upon inhaling their fumes. Bugs are becoming immune to pesticides which leads to the use of stronger pesticides that will affect our health even more. Pesticides can lead to many health problems and diseases such as cancer, respiratory problems, pregnancy complications, diabetes, and much, much more (“Impacts of Pesticides on Health”). There are also a lot of diseases that can come from or are more likely to come from eating animal products such as heart disease, type two diabetes, cancer, arthritis, kidney disease, and many more (Petre,"6 Science-Based Health Benefits of Eating Vegan."). The agriculture industry is promoting the use of processed foods, which can cause the previously mentioned diseases ("Hidden Costs of Industrial Agriculture"). Meat, especially red meat, is known to cause heart disease and cancer; dairy products are likely to cause breast cancer and increase the size of tumors that already exist (Andersen, Cowspiracy). Why would you want to continue consuming food that is causing you a significant amount of life-threatening diseases?

It is exceptionally typical to be skeptical of a topic you are not completely informed on. There is a magnitude of controversy over whether or not veganism is a healthy diet, whether it could be sustainable for the whole population, and the fear that animals will start to overpopulate the earth. Veganism is the diet that was made for humans. If you compare human teeth to herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores, our teeth match the teeth of herbivores the closest. If you can look at an animal’s teeth, and identify exactly what they are meant to eat, and what type of diet they are supposed to eat, why can we not come to terms with the fact that we are supposed to be eating a plant based diet? You could try to argue that most people have two canine teeth that are longer like an omnivore’s teeth, but our “canine” teeth are nowhere near as long as the tooth of an omnivore. An omnivore has teeth that are significantly longer than the rest, our teeth are only about half of a centimeter to a centimeter longer than the other teeth around them; that does not mean we are meant to eat meat. The description of an herbivore's teeth is “... strong and flat molars that are made for grinding leaves, and small or non-existent canine teeth” (Miami Center for Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry). This is the exact description of what a human’s teeth look like. There is no way our teeth are meant to support an omnivorous diet. There is a great misconception that veganism is unhealthy for you, because there are nutrient deficiencies that can often come along with it. The only reason there are often deficiencies that go along with veganism is because of a lack of nutritional knowledge. It would be simple if we were raised as herbivores, but now that we have to make the conversion for ourselves, we have to take the time to educate ourselves on the proper way to achieve a vegan diet; iron deficiencies, protein deficiencies, and any other lack of nutrition would be nonexistent. It is incredibly easy to get proper nutrition without eating meat if you are choosing to eat the right foods. Veganism is actually known to provide more nutrients than meat-based diets, "For instance, several studies have reported that vegan diets tend to provide more fiber, antioxidants, and beneficial plant compounds. They also appear to be richer in potassium, magnesium, folate, and vitamins A, C, and E" (Petre, "6 Science-Based Health Benefits of Eating Vegan"). As for protein, there are many food options that provide the same amount, or more, protein than a healthy serving of meat would. Tofu is a very common option for protein among vegans and vegetarians. It is an easy food you can throw into just about any meal, and make it your own. There are also plenty of legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetables that provide protein such as chickpeas, peas, quinoa, broccoli, edamame, almonds, chia seeds, and more. It is more likely than not that you already eat plenty of protein in each meal that does not come from an animal product. It is common for meat-eaters to consume more protein than their body actually requires. 

The argument that veganism is unhealthy is invalid, and just used by people as an excuse to avoid change in how they live their daily life. The next common argument against veganism is that it will not be sustainable for the entire country or world, because in order to have enough plants to sustain the world on a plant-based diet you would need a lot of space; it is honestly quite the opposite. “A person who follows a vegan diet produces the equivalent of 50 percent less carbon dioxide, uses 1/11th oil, 1/13th water, and 1/18th land compared to a meat-lover for their food,” and, “1.5 acres can produce 37,000 pounds of plant-based food. 1.5 acres can produce 375 pounds of beef,” according to Cowspiracy (Andersen). This shows that an extreme amount of land will be saved by getting rid of the numerous cattle farms around the world. If you actually think about it, it is very apparent that so much land will be saved by a plant-based diet, because one cow is much larger than one plant. It is also terribly disappointing to think about the fact that all of the crops planted for feeding cattle could feed every person in the world a completely balanced diet with more food to spare—and nobody is jumping to make this change happen upon learning this fact. Why is it that there is only a minuscule amount of activists trying to raise awareness, and support the change to a plant-based diet so all of the third world countries, where millions of people starve to death each year, to be able to have a sustainable diet, and a sustainable life? Is there not enough empathy to go around for these people just because you do not personally see them every day, so it feels as though it is not affecting your life? The truth is that there are people in America that are starving too. It may not be affecting you specifically, but it is hurting our country. People only think about themselves when it comes down to making sacrifices within their own life; having to cut out something as trivial in their diet as meat is an unthinkable topic for many people. How can you be so arrogant to put your personal preference to a higher degree of importance than the lives of so many people? Most of the time eating meat is not even a preference. I doubt your parents asked you if you wanted to eat meat before feeding it to you as a child. I doubt anyone actually explained to you what the meat you were eating was, and where it came from, but now it is something you cannot give up, because at this point you are most likely just eating meat because it is what everyone else does. Society always has the biggest say in how we go about living our lives; it makes us fear change even when it is necessary. Lastly, animal overpopulation will not be an issue resulting from veganism. Most animals we fear taking over have many natural predators. For example, deer will be hunted by wolves, coyotes, and bears. Just because there are more of them than we normally see does not mean they are overpopulated. Natural causes will also keep overpopulation from happening. Human overpopulation is what is actually happening in most of the cases we think animals are overpopulating. The fact that the human population has grown so much is what is making the number of animals in a species seem to increase. The population went from one billion people in 1812 to one and a half billion people in 1912, to seven billion people in 2012 (Andersen, Cowspiracy). If we are really of higher intelligence than animals, then you would think we would realize that our population increases are creating more problems than the animal population increases.

There are so many more benefits to veganism rather than meat-based diets; it seems like a very simple solution to our nation’s problems, but most people are too afraid of change to see how amazing of an opportunity to start saving the world it is. It seems as though the majority of people just want to get through their life, and keep pushing off all of the problems, even if they have the opportunity to create change for the generations to come after them. The problem of the agriculture industry is getting worse every day as more people are born. Cattle farms may have been the way to go for one billion people, but seven billion people is just way too many for cattle and dairy farms to sufficiently sustain. We cannot keep pushing the problems of the agriculture industry off to the side, because the effects are happening right now. Global warming is really starting to set in as an issue; if you care about the environment where you live, and have the capacity to empathize with animals, especially the arctic animals, you should be able to understand what is going on with the world enough to have no trouble converting to veganism. It is completely unacceptable to call yourself an environmentalist, and still support the agriculture industry. You are saving your own health, the health of this planet, and the health of animals just by making a small change to your habits. It is as simple as turning your old habits into new habits. You can start by just exchanging one animal product with a plant-based alternative. Sooner than you know it you will be eating completely vegan. You will probably feel more awake and energized than when you were eating animal products, because of all of the health benefits, and you have the satisfaction of knowing you are contributing to the improvement of our atmosphere. If you do not want to end up having to move to another planet, because this one becomes unlivable, just to end up turning that planet to trash, you should stop supporting the industry that is hurting our planet the most. You would not think that the agriculture industry, and the government would be so shallow to disregard all empathy towards the people they could be feeding, the animals they are mistreating, and the planet they are destroying, but money really is the root of all evil.

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