Saving The Environment With Your Fork

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Do you sometimes feel, like me, overwhelmed and disempowered by the enormous problems in our world?

I’ve been in the environmental and animal protection movements my entire life. And often what I have read, heard and seen has made my heart break.

From the destruction of our world’s old-growth forests; the alarming rate of species extinction (goodbye Polar Bears, Tigers and Mountain Gorillas); the overfishing of our oceans and by-catch of dolphins, porpoises and sea turtles; to one of the scariest problems facing the globe, climate change.

And that doesn’t even touch the sides. Every day we inflict horrendous cruelty on animals in factory farming industries. Pregnant pigs and hens are squashed in cages unable to turn around. The torturous live export trade continues unabated and the commercial kangaroo industry, the biggest wildlife slaughter in the world, condones bashing joeys to death on a tow bar.

It can feel too much. Too big to handle.

However, many of us don’t realise that we can (strange as it seems!) eat our world’s problems away.

How? By moving towards a plant-based diet.

Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction and 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.

If we stopped eating cows, for example, we wouldn’t need to cut down our ancient forests for meat production.

There are 1.5 billion cattle in the world today and each one needs 2-5 acres of land. Deforestation for cattle grazing and to grow feed is one of the biggest causes of wildlife extinction. By reducing our beef, we would also tackle climate change by preventing 150 billion gallons of methane gas entering our atmosphere every day.

And that’s just cows. What about pigs?

Pigs are social and sensitive creatures who can outsmart dogs and chimpanzees. Pig mothers are very maternal, they build nests and sing songs to their babies.

Factory farming of pigs has long been acknowledged by scientists and experts as unacceptably cruel.

But, pig factories are also environmental disasters. Tens of thousands of pigs are locked into closed barns, each producing about six kilos (14 pounds) of waste every day. This pollution can seep into our groundwater system and pollute our air with toxic waste particles and ammonia – causing a flow on effect of problems.

And if we reduced how much dairy we eat? Well, we’d save 270 million mother cows the emotional pain of having their babies forcibly taken from them, again and again, their entire lives until they are slaughtered. And forget taking shorter showers. By giving up dairy, one person can save 50,000 gallons of water a year.

Crazy.

Moving to a plant-based, vegan lifestyle, even if it’s in small incremental steps like becoming a ‘Reducetarian’ or signing up for Veganuary (going vegan in January), Meat Free Mondays or Meat Free Weeks, can make a huge difference to our global environment, save wildlife from extinction, protect forests and even halt climate change.

It will also make a difference to the lives of billions of sentient animals. Who, like us, feel joy and pain. And, like us, want to be safe from harm and cruelty.

 

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Ondine Sherman is Co-founder and Managing Director of Voiceless, the animal protection institute. Ondine Sherman’s young adult fiction, Sky, is out now.