You don’t need a science degree to understand why veganism is one of the easiest steps we can take towards healing our planet, but the benefits extend even further than you might think, says Tiffany Francis.
1. Stabilising the Ocean
The blight of plastic pollution hit the headlines last winter after David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II revealed just how much junk we were throwing into our oceans. But while plastic is a serious threat, ocean acidification is far more deadly, caused by an increased uptake of carbon dioxide from the earth’s atmosphere.
As ocean acidity increases, creatures with calcium carbonate in their shells, such as molluscs, crabs and coral reefs, find it harder to grow and reproduce. By switching to a vegan diet, we can reduce the amount of agricultural carbon being pumped into the atmosphere and help ocean ecosystems re-stabilise.
2. Cleaning Waterways
Animal feed grown for livestock needs to be produced incredibly quickly, which means high doses of chemicals, fertilisers and antibiotics are often released into the surrounding areas. This excess waste creates areas in the local environment that are completely devoid of life, known as ‘dead zones’.
There are currently 405 identified dead zones around the world, and more than half of America’s rivers and streams are now unable to support life after decades of agricultural pollution. Thankfully, evidence shows that dead zones are reversible if animal agriculture operations clean themselves up, or better yet, disappear entirely.
3. Protecting the Rainforest
Every second, an area of rainforest equivalent to a football field is cleared to rear and graze animals for the meat and dairy industries. Contrary to claims that vegans are driving deforestation through the demand for soybeans, in reality up to 70% of global soya production is destined for animal feed, not humans.
Animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, and by checking where your soya products come from, you can ensure your diet is ethical and deforestation-free.
4. Replenishing the Sea
While some consider it more ‘natural’ to eat wild fish rather than those from intensive farmed fisheries, there is nothing natural about the 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises who die each year after being caught in fishing nets. Thousands of turtles, seals and birds also die from injuries caused by nets and tackle, and although technology is improving to avoid this ‘by-catch’, the industry is still causing enormous damage to an already fragile ecosystem.
By avoiding eating fish altogether, not only are you saving individual lives, you’re also reducing pressure on other sea creatures struggling to survive.
5. Reducing Air Pollution
According to the US Environmental Defense Fund, if every American swapped one meal of chicken for a vegetarian alternative each week, the reduction in carbon dioxide would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off the road. Aside from health concerns, air pollution can lead to acid rain, algal blooms in rivers and lakes, wildlife sickness, ozone depletion and forest damage.
Animal farming releases millions of harmful particles into the air every year, and by adopting a plant-based diet, you can help the planet and its inhabitants breathe cleaner air.
6. Removing Nitrous Oxide
Animal farming emits more greenhouse gases than all the cars, planes and ships in the world combined, but while carbon usually takes centre stage in the climate debate, there are other greenhouse gases responsible for rising global temperatures.
According to a report published by the United Nations, the meat, egg and dairy industries account for 65% of the world’s nitrous oxide emissions, a greenhouse gas that is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. By reducing the demand for animal products, veganism can help restore climate balance in the long term
Tiffany Francis is an author and artist. She writes her own vegan zine called Rabbit Food — find out more at tiffanyfrancis.com