By Tiffany Beyer
Oh no, yet another annoying vegan rant.
But listen up, because this is not about you, or the ethical treatment of animals.
In order to help reduce our environmental impact, the Go Green Movement tells us to recycle, ditch our plastic grocery bags and ride our bikes to work.
But did you know that your diet has more of an impact on greenhouse emissions than your car does?
Agriculture emits 10 percent more greenhouse gases than all transportation emissions combined, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Although agriculture in general includes producing both plants and animals for food, much of the plant products are actually used for animal agriculture.
A substantial portion of the grain grown in the U.S. is fed to livestock, contributing to the significant pollution caused by the animal agriculture industry. For example, 39.1 percent of corn grown in 2015 was used to feed livestock, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
However, switching to grass fed livestock is even more land intensive than growing grain to feed them. The USDA says a 1,200 pound cow needs 1.8 acres to graze. One acre can also produce 9,800 pounds of corn. If you do the math, one is clearly more efficient than the other.
If we fed the grain used for raising livestock to people instead of animals, we could effectively end world hunger. Showing compassion for the animals and our environment would also mean showing compassion for our fellow humans.
But those cows, pigs and chickens would all run wild if we didn’t eat them, right? Wouldn’t that cause a farm-pocalypse? No, it wouldn’t, because these animals only exist in large numbers because humans facilitate their reproduction.
Let’s talk water. How many times were you scolded for letting the water run while brushing your teeth as a kid? Turns out, that’s not even comparable to ordering a burger.
It takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of U.S. beef, according to The Water Footprint Network. Visualize how many plants could be watered with 1,800 gallons.
So what about the idea of sustainable seafood? Unfortunately, that’s not the reality.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says that 52 percent of fish stocks are fully exploited and 17 percent are overexploited. If this continues, we will run out of seafood by 2048.
I could number dump all day, but I encourage you to do research on your own. The facts are there. Major organizations are getting on board with finally identifying animal agriculture as one of the drivers of climate change.
Identifying is just step one though, step two is making changes in your life if you really care about the state of our environment — and that can be tough.
Transitioning to a plant-based diet is difficult, I’ll be the first to admit that. You have to unlearn the eating habits you’ve been conditioned to have your entire life.
However, it can be done. Taking small steps is OK, and there is a world of support and resources out there — not to mention the incredible evolution of plant-based meat, dairy and egg substitutes.
Don’t get discouraged, and remember that almost every plant-based eater has spoken the words: “I could never go vegan.” But then they did.
Pictured Above: Vegan food has been evolving over the years. Several vegan restaurants have popped up around the downtown St. Petersburg area like Meze 119 on Second Street North and First Avenue where this delicious spread is from. Courtesy of Alea Gregorcic