Ask a vegan why he or she started eating plant-based in the first place, and you’ll probably get either one of these answer: “For the animals” or “For my health”.
It’s true: most people go vegan because they do not want to contribute to animal suffering in the meat- fish-, egg- and dairy industry any longer. I’m one of these typical ‘vegan for the animals’-vegans, and also a great enthusiast about the health benefits that a vegan diet provides. But a growing number of people deliberately turn their backs towards meat and other animal products, because of the environment. They go vegan for de planet, so to say. And, my beloved boys and girls, that argument is so legit that I had to write an article about it, explaining why we should ALL go vegan for the planet. Not in the last place to save our own ass.
Vegan for the Planet
The choice between following a plant-based or omnivorous diet is not only a case of life and dead for trillions of animals in the farming industry, but also of ourselves as human kind. Animal products have a devastating impact on the climate, the environment and nature. If we keep on binging out on cheeseburgers and tuna sandwiches, it will all go horribly wrong, sooner than you think.
In this article you find the answer on the question “Why should we all go vegan for the planet?”. My statements are backed up with scientific sources so you know for sure I don’t talk bullshit.
I warn you, faint of hearties: this is no comfy bed-time story. To be honest, I myself am terrified by the thought of what we are heading towards. What will happen to us in 20 years from now, if we keep on going like this. But the good news is: we can do something to ward off the creeping disaster. It all starts with individuals. With you and me. Guess what you got to do. That’s right.
Going vegan* is the best you can do for:
- The climate
- The forests
- Threatened animal species & individual animals
- Fresh water
Are you one of those brave ones who are ready to read the inconvenient truth (and the convenient solution at the end)? Then let’s go.
* Small steps in the plant-based direction make a huge impact too! For example, quitting meat and/or dairy or fish. If you choose the plant-based option half of the times, that means you got half a vegan. And boy, that makes a difference I tell you! Imagine what would happen if everyone would quit meat just one day a week. Boom! An incredible change of our fate! Yes! Ok, let’s move on with the arguments for going vegan (more often) shall we.
1. Vegan for the Climate
Thanks to us humans, the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere has risen with staggering speed. And along with it, the global temperature. During the climate conference in Paris, about two hundred countries decided that the average temperature on Earth must not exceed 2 degrees Celcius. Otherwise, the consequences will be incalculable .
Hold on tight, because what follows is probably the most important fact of this whole article:
The meat-, dairy-, fish- and egg industry emits more greenhouse gasses per year then the entire transport industry . That is, all cars, trucks, airplanes, trains and ships. The production of meat, fish, diary and eggs produces more CO2 and methane (which is multiple times more climate-toxic as CO2) then any other industry there is . And the effects of that are all to clear.
Rising sea level
The first animal people think of when you talk about climate change is the polar bear. Not completely irrelevant, because global warming causes the North- and South poles to melt at a phenomenal rate.
So how much is that ‘phenomenal rate’ then?
From the analysis of the NASA it follows that the Antarctic loses 83 gigaton of ice each year . That is the equivalent of half a Mount Everest, which weighs about 161 gigaton. If we continue to drop a Mount Everest into the ocean every two years (and this is only the Antarctic!), the ‘best case scenario’ is that the sea level has risen by half a meter at the end of this century . Though other analyses show that this can easily become 2 or even 5 meters [6,7]. What that does to our world map, you can find out yourself here.
But melting polar ice is just the tip of the iceberg (ha!) and will pale (ha2!) by what is happening below the surface of our oceans. Our next answer on the question ‘why vegan for the planet’, hides between the sea anemones.
Bleaching Coral reefs
Global warming causes mass die-offs of coral reefs. Coral is very vulnerable to changes in water temperature. If the water gets too warm for them, the corals will expel the algea that give them their colour. So the coral bleaches, and if the temperature of the water does not fall again to let the algae return, then it means a certain death to the coral .
Already 93% of the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the world, suffers from bleaching and is very likely to die off completely due to this . Two thirds of the reef is already officially declared dead .
Not only warming, but also acidification of the ocean is killing the corals. The ocean takes up 30 to 40% of the CO2 from the air, and because there is so much CO2, the ocean acidifies more and more . This causes the calcium skeletons of which the coral is made to dissolve, just like the calcium shells of numerous sea creatures, including plankton .
Animal products → more greenhouse gasses → higher temperature → melting ice → rising sea level
Animal products → more greenhouse gasses → higher temperature + ocean acidification → dying coral reefs
What veganism can do
The story seems clear to me. To stop global warming and climate change, we MUST reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses. And as you read from the beginning, the most effective way to do so is to buy and eat less animal products, and choose more often for plant-based alternatives .
If you’d go vegan right now, you would reduce your personal emission of greenhouse gasses by 60% then if you’d continue eating animal products . Also vegetarians can improve on this matter: dairy, and especially cheese, together with red meat is the most climate toxic food source there is. If you’d replace the dairy and eggs with vegan options (do join the club!), then you would emit 24% less greenhouse gasses then when you would just keep eating these .
If everyone would become a vegan, the world wide emission of greenhouse gasses in the food industry would decrease 70% ! This would mean we cannot only save the coral and polar ice, but also stop the other results of climate change that I didn’t mention here. Go vegan for the planet. Even if it was just for one or two days a week. You can do it. If your life depended on it.. right?
2. Vegan for the Forests
People do not survive on thin air, and neither do animals. All the animals in the farming industry need food to live and provide us with our guilty pleasures. And they need A LOT of food. World wide there is massive deforestation going on, just to make place for land to grow food for the animals we want to eat, cause we ‘like the taste of it’. It’s sick. Every second, an area the size of a soccer field gets cut or burned to make place for soy- and maize that just serve as animal feed .
Did you know: More than 95% of all soy that is grown world wide is used as cattle feed, and not for soy milk or tofu? Another anti-vegan argument debunked. Going vegan for the planet and eating soy is totally legit.
Soy plantations are literally not even half of the story. More than 60% of the Amazon rain forest gets razed to the ground to make place for grassland for – you guessed it – cows. Rain forests are turned into grazing land for the steaks that end up on our plate . The mass deforestation leads to the extinction of animal species and the collapse of entire eco systems .
3. Vegan for Endangered Animal Species
More than half of all plants and animals that live on the planet, are living in tropical rain forests. I don’t mean species even here – no, just animals. Individuals. Deforestation is therefore the top most largest cause of the extinction of animals and animal species . And those animals don’t just, poof!, get sent to heaven without pain. No.
With every tree going down, the lives of hundreds of animals get shattered. They get burned in the fires from slash-and-burn agricultural practices, are killed or caught by hunters, or will starve to death between the remains of what once was their home. Those who manage to flee into other parts of the forest are entering unknown territory, often already occupied by other animals. They are killed in fights or starve in the struggle to find resources.
A groundbreaking report shows that on this date, we lost more than 58% of the total world population of animals compared to 1970 [20, 21]. The scientists who made the report predict that this percentage will rise to 67% in 2020. So in two years from now, we only got one thirds of all the animals left, then what we had 50 years ago.
Off shore, it’s not getting better either. The oceans are getting depleted. Due to overfishing, only half of all fish is left compared to 50 years ago . Also, 40% of it is by-catch. Sea turtles, dolphins, whales, sharks and other fish species die because they are carelessly thrown overboard, either dead or deadly wounded . If we keep going on fishing like this, in 30 years the oceans will be empty.
Change or die
We are on the eve of a mass-extinction , with the biggest cause being us humans, and our desire to eat hamburgers and yogurt and visit sushi restaurants . Not only is this an ethical crime to my opinion, but it also has far-reaching consequences for all life on this planet, including me and you and future generations. We are completely dependent on the Earth. It is our ‘source of everything’, from drinking water to our health. If the Earth collapses, then we’re finished too.
To stop deforestation and prevent a mass-extinction from happening, we must stop eating meat, fish, dairy and eggs. Because if we keep on buying and eating these, the forests will keep on getting cut and overfishing will continue. If we would all go vegan now, we would stop the majority of logging and we do not have to care at all about overfishing or by-catch. Then ecosystems can recover, before it is too late. Because honestly, it really is five minutes to midnight concerning the state of the Earth.
Animal products → more land needed → deforestation → dying animals → species extinctions → collapsing ecosystems
Animal products → more fishing → overfishing → dying sea life → species extinctions → collapsing ecosystems
4. Vegan for Fresh Water
At last, I want to talk about the most important source on our planet: drinking water. For most people who will read this, water just emerges from the tap. But 780 million people do not have access to safe drinking water . This number rises every year, and is not so far removed from also our tap-pampered lives as well. Also in developed countries, water shortage is becoming more and more of a problem .
You may have heard this before, that for the production of meat you need a lot of water. But how much was that again..? I got myself a scientific source that calculated it [this one] and I made the alarming numbers a bit more tangible. Let me show you:
1 hamburger = 4,5 hours of showering
For one hamburger weighing in at 150 grams, 2350 liters of water is used . This means that every time you buy a hamburger, you could also have run the shower for 4,5 hours straight . I am not kidding – you can calculate it for yourself if you want to.
1 glass of milk = 38 times flushing the toilet
Vegetarians, you’re next. Because milk is as bad for the environment as for animal welfare. For one liter of milk, you need 1050 lilters of water . For every gulp that goes down (= 33 ml, tested myself, using water by the way), you can flush te toilet 5 times. Which comes down to 38 times for a glass of 250 ml of milk. Think now of cheese being very condensed milk.. I wonder why the hell this is still legal to buy.
To make matters worse, the animal farming industry doesn’t only use much water, but also pollutes it . The waste water from this industry causes so-called ‘dead zones’ in the ocean, due to the high concentrations of nitrate it contains .
The Inconvenient Truth
The choice between plant-based or animal-based food is not only a question of life or dead for billions of animals in (factory) farms and the fishing industry, but also determines the future or fall of Earth and every living think inhabiting this planet. We cannot deny it any longer: every time you eat animal products, you contribute directly to climate change, deforestation, mass-extinction and water wastage.
- Due to climate change, the sea level rises and coral dies off.
- Due to deforestation, billions of animals get killed. This causes individual animal suffering, mass-extinctions and total destruction of ecosystems.
- Due to water wastage, drinking water gets more scarce, also in developed countries.
We scorn Trump on his selfish and short-sighted behaviour, but when we pass the entrance of the supermarket, we are no better. We come up with all kinds of excuses to not have to let go of our good ol’ yoghurt and muesli, or that piece of meat on our plate. This devastates the Earth. We are heading full speed towards a catastrophe. And if that happens, there is no plan B, simply because there is no planet B.
The Convenient Solution
The solution has 5 letters and starts with a v: vegan.
But how do I do that?
It is really simple. I can do it like 24/7, 365 days per year and it’s a breeze. Especially with all the options there are these days (the internet is loaded with vegan recipes, tips and alternatives, and supermarkets and restaurants get more vegan-friendly by the day).
All I want you to do is: every time you have the choice of going for an animal product or choosing a plant-based alternative, choose the plant-based one. If you lay your hands on a pack of meat, fish, eggs, milk or cheese, think of what that does to the planet and YOUR future life. Think then of what non-animal alternative you can take instead. No idea what? I got some suggestions for you (or use Google):
- Cheese or meat on sandwiches → peanut butter, hummus or vegetable spread
- Yogurt → soy yoghurt, smoothiebowl or oatmeal with banana and cinnamon
- Milk → soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, coconut milk – also makes great lattes!
- Eggs → tofu: make soms scrambled eggs from silken tofu (add some curry powder and black pepper to get that real eggy flavour)
- Meat or fish with dinner → vegan ‘meat’ alternatives, tempeh, tofu, beans of lentils
- Lunch or dinner → Buddha bowl
Eating out: same thing. Go for the vegan option on the menu, even if you are not used to it. It will pleasantly surprise you, trust me! (if not, leave a comment. I’ll then soothe you and tell you you’ve been a hero for trying, that you did save 2000 liters of water, an animals’ life and contributed to counter climate change.) You can also ask the waiter or waitress if your favourite dish can be made vegan. Do do this! Because this signals the need for more vegan options, and by asking this you contribute to a vegan revolution wave saving the planet. Maybe they will get a vegan item on the menu that other people will order in the future and thereby also contribute!
And no, you do not have to go vegan overnight. Rather replace the animal products in your diet step by step. In this way, you prevent the scenario of giving up next weekend. I as well reduced animal products one at a time. It took me 3 months to completely go vegan. This in my opinion is better for the long-run, so you have the time to get used to it, say goodbye to cravings and learn to know the tricks and good recipes.
Every time you choose for plant-based instead of animal products, I cheer for you. Because every time you do so, you choose for a bright future on this planet, for yourself, for your children, for every other person, and for the animals living on it.
So. What do we have for dinner?
More inspiration and information: Cowspiracy – full documentary:
This post is also available in NL