I’ve been vegetarian for almost 6 months now and it’s been…well, pretty normal, if I’m being honest. I’ve been vegetarian during the summer in the past, but at the beginning of 2019 I decided that it was time for me to become a full-time vegetarian. This switch was no different than when I had switched to this diet in the past, so making the complete switch wasn’t very difficult, I just stopped eating meat.
The only real difference between January’s switch and last summer’s switch (besides the fact that I am not looking to end my vegetarian diet anytime soon) is that I had a new reason for becoming vegetarian this time around. In the past, I would go vegetarian in the summer for no real reason other than that it was an interesting change of pace. Now, it’s a different story.
I’m vegetarian because of the harm animal agriculture and meat consumption causes to the already endangered environment.
Before continuing I want to point out that I’ve never watched any of the documentaries that many people decide to go vegetarian from. This was solely my choice, with no scare tactics involved, other than the fact that me being vegetarian is just one of many of my small contributions to affecting the environment positively.
Earlier this month, I spotted this gem of a meme from @veganmemedealer:
The majority of people in my daily life who claim to care about the climate crisis, drop all interest and enter dismissal mode as soon as I explain that I’m a vegetarian because of how meat production harms the environment.
They’re all like: Reusable straws? Save the environment! Carrying cloth bags instead of plastic? Save the environment! Recycling? Save the environment! Vegetarianism? Nah, I’ll pass.
Here’s why people should care a bit more about what animal agriculture does to the environment:
FACTS ABOUT THE LIVESTOCK INDUSTRY
– Livestock farming makes up for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Greenhouse gases pollute the environment and are a major cause of the global heating phenomenon (Fao.org). This is more than the emissions produced by cars, planes, ships, trains, and all other transport (Chatham House).
-Livestock farming creates degradation of the world’s arable land with this type of farming taking up one-third of the world’s arable land. Grazing and feed production contributes to the soil and water degradation (Stanford).
-Water use for livestock farming leads to ground water depletion as 1/3 of the world’s drinkable/fresh water is consumed by livestock (Penn State). This is not sustainable or efficient and could begin to have more negative effects on the environment than it already does.
Obviously, these are just a few facts in the grand scheme of it all, but for the sake of this post, they’re all I am going to include for now.
Climate change is arguably the biggest threat to human health in the 21st century. It increases the risk of severe weather events like floods, droughts, and major heatwaves that are known to be devastating to human population. Pollution may cause illness and is detrimental to biodiversity around the globe.
You may recall the buzz on social media about not using plastic straws to save the sea turtles. Just yesterday, sea turtles became officially endangered. This is just one example of what will happen as the climate crisis continues to grow, and as it continues to grow, so will the harm done by it.
And that is why I am vegetarian. If everyone took little steps like shifting their diet, we could change the rate at which the climate is changing for the worse. Any change, no matter how little, is better than no change at all.
HOW YOU CAN HELP WITHOUT BECOMING FULLY VEGETARIAN
In the end, full vegetarianism or veganism is not appealing or available to everyone ( read Classism and Ableism in Veganism). However, simply reducing personal meat consumption is possible no matter who you are. Here are some ways to do so:
-When going out to eat, consciously choose vegetarian options or options without meat.
-If you are able, purchase meat from sustainable, organic, and grass-fed meat producing facilities.
-Have a Meatless Monday or one day a week where you don’t eat meat.
-If you are able, eliminate all processed and/or all red meat from your diet.
I am not the first or final source you should go to when learning about the climate crisis and vegetarianism, so be sure to do your own research. There are millions of trustworthy articles, science journals, and sites that are educational on what the climate crisis is. I cannot stress the importance of educating yourself on these issues enough, even reading one article a day is better than nothing.
Today, focus on how you can make conscious decisions to better the health of our plant and in turn, each other. Any change, no matter how little, is better than no change at all.
*Disclaimer: I am in no way trying to “shame” those of you who are not vegetarian. The lifestyle doesn’t make sense/isn’t accessible for everybody. This post is simply to open up the frequently dismissed discussion on how and why vegetarianism is helpful to the environment and combats climate change.