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Killing two birds with one stone (not literally)

How about saving the planet and its animals, all at once?

Many people give up the consumption of animal products for numerous reasons, which may include personal health and well-being, ethical beliefs, food expense reduction, and more. Thinking today about the reasons why I choose to follow a vegan lifestyle lead me to considering the environmental impact of the lifestyle. For those of you who are opposed to giving up your cheeseburgers regardless of the information presented, this will at the least provide you with some food for thought (a small side order for your burger).

In the past, the United Nations issued a report, somewhat like a call-to-action, for the world to reduce its consumption of animal products (both meat and dairy). As quoted in the U.K. Guardian, the UN feels that a "global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change." Clearly, this is a pretty serious issue.

I first learned about the global impacts of veganism in a book by Christina Pirello, This Crazy Vegan Life: A Prescription for an Endangered Species, where she compared the carbon footprints of the meat and dairy industries to the fruit, vegetable, and grain industries. The statistics presented here were shocking, and I later saw them highlighted in the UN's report, claiming that the meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than all the SUVs, cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world combined. By now, I'm sure you know the dangers of greenhouse gases, and our planet needs to be doing as much as we can to keep the percentage of these gases to a minimal number.

It seems that going "green" is now the trend, which is great, but here are some stats from GoVeg that may get you to second think those chicken fingers.

  • The official handbook for the Live Earth concerts says that "refusing meat" is the "single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint."
  • According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than a half-million cars off U.S. roads.
  • The University of Chicago reports that going vegan is 50% more effective than switching to a hybrid car in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

I don't know about you, but I find these fascinating. It's crazy to think that what you eat has a direct impact on the environment. Animal agriculture is the leading source of methane and nitrous oxide emissions. When you mix these with carbon dioxide, your fabulous end result is global warming. Here's another crazy stat for you: eating one pound of meat emits the same amount of greenhouse gases as driving an SUV 40 miles.  One pound of meat is not much, but look at its impact. Next time you're out to dinner, try a veg option. Cutting back on your meat intake, even once a week, makes a difference.

Over 55 billion animals are killed every year in slaughterhouses and factory farms. They don't have a choice whether or not they want to become your food, but you can decide whether or not you'll eat them. I'm not asking you to make a 180 here, I'm just hoping you'll think about what you're eating, along with its impact.